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MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE 



BY THE SAME AUTHOR 
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A GIRL WITHOUT AMBITION 

With Four Illustrations 

" <P A Girl Without Ambition ' ought to be read by 
every college girl. ... An unhackneyed plot, keen 
powers of observation and a rarely pleasing style ren- 
der ' The Girl Without Ambition ' captivating from 
beginning to end. It is the equal of anything Louisa 
M. Alcott ever wrote. No more praise could be given 
any writer of girls' stories." 

The Chicago Times- Her aid. 

DAVID McKAY, PUBLISHER 
PHILADELPHIA, PA. 




"She looked at him long and pitifully" (p. 166). 



Frontia. 



MRS. PEDERSON'S 
NIECE 



ISABEL SUART ROBSON 

Autbor of 
"A Girl Without Ambition " 



PHILADELPHIA 

DAVID McKAY, PUBLISHER 
610 SOUTH WASHINGTON SQUARE 



Cofyrtghty IQOI, by 
CASSELL AND COMPANY, LIMITED 



URL 
SRLF 



INTRODUCTION 



Long ago I asked a young American girl 
what quality she most admired in her girl friends, 
Und her prompt reply was: "Oh, courage! The 
courage that is never daunted by circumstances 
and that goes out to meet the disagreeables of 
life with flags flying and drums beating ! " It is 
in the hope that this friend of my youth voiced 
the feelings of American girls of to-day, that I 
send this story of English girlhood across the 
Atlantic. 

Hilary and Frances and Ursula are types of 
girlhood neither rare nor idealized and nationality 
has little indeed to do with Hilary's buoyancy 
and resourcefulness under adverse fortune, or 
with Ursula's serenity and fixity of purpose, or 
with Frances Skone's mistaken eagerness for suc- 
cess in the work she has chosen. 

For girls of all ages and nations my heart 
beats warmly ; it touches me at all times, to 
watch them 

" Standing with reluctant feet 
Where the brook and river meet." 



I know how they look at the future through a 
golden haze and that "it beckons them with a 
thousand fingers promising beautiful possibilities," 
and I prize more deeply than I can tell every 
opportunity that comes to me to say a word of 
inspiration or encouragement. It is my hope 
that this story of Hilary and her friends will help 
some girl across the seas to take up with cheerful 
courage the work which has been given her to do 
in the world of school or home ; not forsaking all 
other duties in complete self-absorption as Frances 
did, but like Hilary, who strove after the beauti- 
ful example of Pater's Marius the Epicurean, 
" not to be wanting to the claims of others, in 
their joys no less than in their calamities." 

Life has its difficult and sad sides even for girls 
as young as my heroine and all the future hinges 
on the way they learn to face troubles. Hilary's 
story, and that of those with whom her life was 
bound up, would have been a strangely different 
one had she elected to hang the world in black 
because she had lost much she was girl enough 
to prize highly. 

To me the three girls, part of whose history 
I have told, are not merely " dream-girls," with 
whom I have lived happily for months and to 
whom I must now say " good-bye." Under other 
names and in somewhat different circumstances 



they form part of my own every-day life and it 
would look empty indeed if they slipped out of 
it as Hilary, Frances and Ursula must do. If 
only my readers in America follow the history of 
the trio with as much interest as the originals 
have done, I shall have no reason to fear that I 
have failed to make them live in the pages of my 

book. 

ISABEL SUART ROBSON. 



CONTENTS. 



I. WHEN CHANGES COME ... ~ *.. i 

II. FRANCES ... ... " 

III. COBWEBS ~. ... 23 

IV. MRS. PEDERSON'S VISITOR ... ~. 34 
V. A NEW FRIEND ~.. 56 

VI. AN UNEXPECTED MEETING 76 

VII. THE STORM BURSTS 90 

VIII. FRANCES REFUSES TO INTERFERE ... 106 

IX. A STEP DOWN IN THE WORLD 123 

X. "BATESON'S SELECT BOARDING ESTAB- 
LISHMENT" 135 

XI. WHAT BECAME OF THE SOVEREIGNS? ... 145 

XII. HILARY TAKES HER OWN WAY 157 

XIII. A COTTAGE IN A WOOD 172 

XIV. A CADMEAN VICTORY .. 181 

XV. QUITE AN OCCASION 195 

XVI. FAIRMEAD ... ... 204, 



vi CONTENTS. 

CHAP. TAG* 

XVII. "LET us FORGET TO BE WISE" 212 

XVIII. A DISASTER 220 

XIX. DARK DAYS AT THE COTTAGE 230 

XX. THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS M . ... 243 

XXI. IN THE FURROWS 253 

XXII. THE AWAKENING OF FRANCES ... ... 259 

XXIII. IN THE HOUR OF PERIL ... _ ... 267 



MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

CHAPTER I. 

WHEN CHANGES COME. 

IT is the most unexpected and the most 
annoying thing that could ever happen," said 
Hilary Pederson, staring out of the window 
into the wide courtyard, white and still in 
the afternoon sunshine. 

She stood in the middle of Madame Brun's 
private parlour, with an expression of angry 
bewilderment on her usually radiant and beau- 
tiful face. She was a girl of eighteen, straight 
and slim as a young palm tree, with blue 
eyes sparkling with life, and lips which curved 
readily into a smile. 

" Of course, I am sorry for poor Uncle 
Gervase," she went on, without looking at 
the old French lady who sat at the table, an 
open letter in her hand ; " but he had no right 
to arrange my future for me in this fashion." 

"The right of those who provide for us, 



2 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECB. 

I suppose," Madame Brun reminded her gently. 
She was sufficiently in sympathy with her 
favourite pupil, however, to feel that the girl 
had some grounds for her protest. It was 
only natural that she should shrink from leaving 
the little community of which, for ten years, 
she had formed an integral and important 
factor ; and, certainly, the late Major Pederson 
had taken a high-handed and imperious way 
to gain his own end. 

She glanced again at the letter she held in 
her hand. It was a lawyer's letter announcing 
his late client's death and that a legacy or 
ninety pounds a year had been left to Hilary 
on condition that she made her home with the 
widowed Mrs. Pederson. 

u Nothing would have induced me to make 
anyone's dependence a handle to force her to 
do unpleasant things," Hilary said impatiently. 
" I have been so happy here, dear Madame, 
that I hate the mere thought of leaving Paris." 

The old lady nodded. "It is ten years 
since your uncle brought you, and never once 
have we been parted," she said affectionately. ' 
"Yes, it will be hard, very hard, to part with 
you, my little one. Other English girls have 
come and gone, charming girls, many of them, 



WHEN CHANGES COME. 3 

but they never stayed long enough to win the 
heart. You have been to me as my own 
child." 

Hilary Pederson's lips quivered, and she 
tapped her foot restlessly on the polished floor. 
She knew that in the Pension Brun she held 
a unique position. As the oldest resident pupil 
and the only one who never left its shelter, 
she had many privileges, and life there had run 
for her on pleasant lines. She was called now to 
relinquish all that had made home and happi- 
ness during these years, and what was offered her 
in exchange seemed hopelessly inadequate to 
compensate her. Every fibre of her being 
prompted her to say an emphatic "no" to her 
uncle's dying injunction, whilst common sense 
told her that she had not a shadow of a reason 
for refusing to obey it. 

"Of course, I must do as Uncle Gervase 
directs," she said aloud. " It would be different 
if I knew and cared for Aunt Sophie. But I 
can't flatter myself that, after forgetting my 
existence lor five years, I have suddenly be- 
come dear and desirable to her." 

" My dear, we must not judge," said Madame, 
shaking her head. 

" I'm not judging, I'm stating a probability," 



4 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

Hilary replied, laughing a little. "Her letter 
to me is kind enough a little too effusive, 
perhaps, but that may be her way. What I 
want explained is this : if she wants me so 
inordinately now, why has she never written 
to me or asked me to visit her before ? " 

"She was not alone then," Madame put in 
softly. 

Hilary's lip curled. "Did Uncle Gervase 
strike you as an all-sufficing companion ? 
Stiff, dull, commonplace, that's how I remember 
him. Altogether English, you know." 

"My child, you are English also," Madame 
replied, laughing, though with a trace of anxiety 
in her faded eyes. She never saw a fault in 
her favourite if she could possibly help it, 
but it jarred on her sense of propriety that 
the girl should criticise her dead uncle in this 
frankly disrespectful fashion. It was not sur- 
prising, she was bound to confess. He had 
maintained the girl generously, but he had 
done nothing, in all the ten years since her 
parents left her to his care, to win her affection 
or respect. He had been almost a stranger to 
her. During her life under Madame Brun's roof 
he had visited her only some half-dozen times, 
and then for the briefest space. His wife, 



WHEN CHANGES COME. 5 

married five years ago, Hilary had never seen, 
and the first letter the girl received from her 
was to announce the Major's death. 

With every wish to maintain family affection, 
Madame Brun could not feel surprised that 
Hilary's liking for her relatives was of the 
most tepid character. She took comfort, how- 
ever, in her knowledge of the girl, and told 
herself that Hilary belonged to that fortunate 
class who are happy anywhere, and make 
friends in the most unlikely places. 

"You will find Mrs. Pederson companionable 
enough, I doubt not," she said dully. "I have 
no fear but that you will find a happy home, 
cherie. The regret and the blankness will be 
with those you leave behind you." 

Hilary threw back her head with a quick, 
impatient gesture. 

"If you keep harping on that string I shall 
do something desperate, dear Madame," she 
said, with a catch in her clear voice. " I 
can keep up my own spirits, but I can't keep 
up yours too. Let us put the whole tiresome 
business away for awhile. You know we were 
discussing our next holiday excursion when 
this odious letter came. We are going to do 
the Hartz Mountains this time." 



6 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

"We shall have to give up the Hartz, 
Hilary." 

" Dear Madame, how preposterous ! Surely 
there is not the least necessity to pile that 
disappointment on the mountain of my woes. 
A few weeks more or less cannot overwhelm 
Mrs. Pederson with grief. It will surely be soon 
enough if I go to England when the holidays 
are over and the girls return." 

Madame Brun shook her head. 

" My child, I shrink from sending you from 
me a moment sooner than necessary, but there 
are things to be considered before personal 
feelings. Miss Smith, our second English 
mistress, starts for London on the day after 
to-morrow, and you must travel with her. It 
will be a great relief to me not to be obliged 
to commit you to the care of strangers." 

Hilary laughed. Miss Smith was barely 
two-and-twenty, and though she was a Girton 
graduate she did not appear to Hilary as a 
very imposing custodian of English maidenhood. 

"I might be a crate of valuable china or a 
maniac," she cried, shrugging her shoulders. 
"It is fortunate that I look young for my age, 
or fellow travellers would have a difficulty in 
discerning which was the chaperone and which 



WHEN CHANGES COME. 7 

the chaperoned. Honestly, dear Madame, don't 
you think I might be trusted to make the journey 
alone when we come back from the Hartz ? I 
hate to give up the excursion, the very last 
we shall have together, and I really feel as 
capable of finding my way as Miss Smith can 
do." 

" My dear Hilary, I desire that you travel 
with Miss Smith," Madame said firmly. "A 
schoolgirl never travels alone. It has never 
been thought right for her to do so" an argu- 
ment which has been considered conclusive since 
the days of Job. "I must find Miss Smith at 
once and make arrangements for your journey." 

The old lady left the room, and Hilary 
soon followed her, taking her way slowly up 
the uncarpeted staircase to the little white room 
which had been hers so long. It had never 
seemed so dear and desirable as now, when it 
was so soon to have another tenant. 

The prospect of Miss Smith's company was 
not an exhilarating one. She was the one 
person Hilary had ever found it difficult " to get 
on with," and the relations between them had 
been, to say the least, strained. Hours of her 
society and her undiluted conversation presented 
no attractions. There was scarcely a subject 



8 Mas. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

upon which they held the same views, and 
Hilary failed altogether to reach Miss Smith's 
standard of girlish excellence. 

It was Miss Smith's conviction that the 
passing of examinations and the taking of 
degrees was the only business of a girl's life 
worth pursuing. Every day she thanked the 
goodness and the grace which on her birth 
had smiled and caused her to be born in 
an enlightened age which endowed colleges 
and opened the doors of learned professions 
to women. Hilary's Gallio-like spirit towards 
these privileges was incomprehensible to her, 
though she openly affirmed, and with acerbity, 
that the atmosphere of the Pension was not 
conducive to scholastic ambitions. 

She had made strenuous efforts to imbue 
Hilary with desires for a Girton course, and 
pointed out the gain of a degree should she 
ever be thrown on her own resources for a 
livelihood. The girl was too happy with 
Madame Brun, and too young and careless to 
fear the future. She turned only a laughing 
ear to the English mistress' predictions ; whilst 
Uncle Gervase was willing to keep her 
at the Pension Brun, she desired nothing 
better. 



WHEN CHANGES COME. 9 

And now Circumstance, often cruel and 
always arbitrary, was sending her away. 

Hilary went to the window and threw it 
open. The afternoon was warm and sunshiny, 
with a fragrance of spring in the air. She 
leaned her elbows on the sill and looked out 
thoughtfully. The school was situated in a 
retired part of Paris, and high walls enclosed 
the large house and its gardens. Nothing of the 
outside world was to be seen ; it might have 
been the cloister of a convent, so absolutely 
was its busy hive of girls guarded from every 
contact with the great city. 

Hilary's little room was on the second floor, 
and from its window she could see the lilac 
and laburnum nodding in the light spring breeze, 
and the golden and brown of wallflowers in the 
borders. Delicate green, the colour of hope, 
met her eyes wherever they turned. 

She was by nature bright and buoyant, and 
as she stood looking out on the new life in the 
old garden, some of her vague dread of an untried 
future slipped from her. Why should the world, 
which had shown her so smiling a face hitherto, 
be less kind in the days to come ? 

She knew nothing of Mrs. Pederson, but 
why should that depress her ? She had never 



io MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

known anyone yet who did not mean her well 
and in whom she could not feel interest in 
some degree. Even poor Miss Smith had her 
good points and her hours when she was quite 
a pleasant companion. She found herself specu- 
lating, as she watched the little girls at play 
in the garden, as to what "Aunt Sophie" was 
like ; but such speculations were soon merged in 
the prospect of a life removed from school 
discipline, a life without rules, and which now 
to Hilary seemed a life of uneven and ragged 
edges. She had been used for so long to have 
her days set in a frame that she was not sure 
that she should like its removal. 

After all, as Madame Brun said, it was 
largely in her own hands to make her life, in 
the days to come, "worth while," and she was 
resolved that it should not be empty or 
purposeless. It must be a difficult sphere which 
did not promise some pleasures and compensa- 
tions for all she was leaving. 

When the tea bell rang, Hilary went down- 
stairs gaily humming a little French song. 
Madame Brun noted a new expression in the 
frank young face and smothered a sigh. 

The regret and the sorrow would be for 
those to whom Hilary was saying good-bye, for 



WHEN CHANGES COMB. n 

though she might feel the wrench of parting, 
already the future was beckoning her, promising 
a thousand things the Pension never could give 
her. 



CHAPTER II. 

FRANCES. 

IT was a chill, grey afternoon when Hilary 
reached London. Spring, after promising beau- 
tiful things, seemed to have repented and 
withdrawn her warmth and colour. It was 
altogether an inauspicious day on which to 
make acquaintance with one's native land. 

Miss Smith had parted with her charge at 
Herne Hill, where her own journey ended. 
Long before she reached Hilary's age she had 
gone to and fro in the earth without let or 
hindrance and come to no harm. She there- 
fore frankly disavowed any concurrence in 
Madame Bran's apprehensions, and when the 
girl assured her that she would be met at the 
terminus, left her to finish the journey alone 
without any compunction. 

Hilary said good-bye to her with more 
regret than she would have thought possible 
twenty-four hours earlier. She watched her 
uncompromising deerstalker-hat and neat coat 
disappear in the crowd of alighting passengers 



FRANCES. 13 

with a sudden sense of chill and limpness. 
For the first time in her life, she was alone 
in the big, bustling world, where everyone was 
absorbed in his or her own business and had 
no thought or attention to give to the solitary 
schoolgirl. 

The train started again, and a quarter of an 
hour later she was on the platform of Holborn 
Viaduct Station. 

She had written to Mrs. Pederson mention- 
ing the hour of her arrival, and it had been 
her comfortable conviction that she would find 
her aunt awaiting her. It was manifest that 
she had over-estimated Mrs. Pederson's eagerness 
to see her. Porters were hurrying, shouting, 
threatening to bear down upon the unwary 
with trucks piled high with luggage ; women 
with harassed faces and children clinging to 
their skirts wandered about aimlessly, whilst 
news-boys bawled the latest intelligence in 
untranslatable Cockney. There was no one on 
the crowded platform whom Hilary could by 
the greatest effort of the imagination mistake 
for her aunt. 

She waited a few minutes, then went to 
claim her luggage, directed it to be put upon 
a cab, and set out to find Markham Square. 



14 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

This could scarcely be called a propitious 
opening of her new life, and it was fortunate 
that she was not one of those whom circum- 
stances easily depress. She looked out of the 
cab window, nevertheless, with a sinking heart. 
All the morning's sunshine had been left behind 
in Kent, and there was a menace of rain in 
the grey, sullen sky which accorded well, she 
thought, with the dinginess of the streets and 
the tired, absorbed faces of the passers-by. 

Her spirits rose as the cab turned into 
Markham Square. It was dull and monotonous, 
but there was an air of comfort and respect- 
ability about the tall, well-kept houses. Here 
and there a brightly painted exterior or a 
freshly filled window - box made a welcome 
splash of colour, whilst, in the square garden, 
glimpses of lilac and laburnum could be seen. 

"If No. 10 has window-boxes I shall con- 
clude that life is going to be pleasant there," 
11; ary sa;d to h-iso-., laughing. "I believe in 
signs and tokens.' 

(Later, she came reluctantly to acknowledge 
that, under Mrs. Pederson's administration, even 
window-boxes may be an abomination and the 
caring for them a wearying of the flesh.) 

Her knock brought to the door an elderly 



FRANCES. 15 

maid, who regarded her with stolid but quite 
friendly curiosity. 

"My mistress is out, miss, but as you are 
expected it is all right," she said affably. 
"If you will please walk into the drawing- 
room, the second door on the right, I'll help the 
man with your boxes." 

Hilary followed these directions and found 
herself in a large room, gaudily papered, and 
furnished in the walnut and green rep style of 
the 'sixties, tastelessly supplemented with imi- 
tation Chippendale chairs and Japanese fans. 
She looked about her with undisguised amuse- 
ment, and then became suddenly aware that 
she was not sole monarch of all she 
surveyed. Her right was disputed by a rather 
untidy-looking girl who was standing at one 
of the windows, staring out into the sooty 
square of garden behind the house. 

At the sound of Hilary's step she turned and 
looked at her with a long, full stare. She 
was a small and very thin girl of four or five- 
and-twenty, with black eyes more critical 
than kindly. There was an expression of 
strain and overwork on the small white face, 
whilst the low brow with its disproportionate 
cranial development gave her, at a first glance, 



1 6 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

the appearance of a precocious child. She wore 
a gown of some dark stiff stuff which hung 
in ungraceful folds about her thin figure. 

"You are Hilary Pederson, of course," she 
said coolly ; " I am Frances Kemsing. Mother 
told me she expected you to-day, so I thought 
I would come round. I knew it was as 
likely as not that she would not be here to 
receive you. She is a law unto herself in 
most matters where other people are governed 
by convention." 

" Indeed/' murmured Hilary, somewhat taken 
aback by this odd reception and no less by 
Miss Kemsing's announcement of their relation- 
ship. Uncle Gervase had not thought it 
worth while to mention that in marrying he 
had gained a daughter as well as a wife. 
" You are very kind to be here to meet me." 

Miss Kemsing laughed drily. 

"I don't suppose I should have come if I 
had not happened to have a free afternoon. I 
have not the reputation for doing odd kind- 
nesses, I assure you. As we're likely to see 
something of one another, I may as well tell 
you that I'm a medical student and devoted 
heart and soul to my work. I allow nothing 
to stand in the way of my work; I leave 



FRANCES. iy 

the little acts of kindness, little deeds of love, 
to those who have nothing else to do." 

Hilary laughed. "I'm sure you make your- 
self out more tiresome than you really are," 
she said, with decision. She had been study- 
ing the dark, clever face, and decided that 
she liked it, in spite of its expression of gloom 
and acerbity. 

"Do you know, Frances I may call you 
Frances, may I not, since we are almost 
cousins ? I did not know of your existence 
until this afternoon." 

Frances smiled. "I guessed that from your 
mystified air when I introduced myself. I am 
not surprised that the Major did not mention 
my existence. I was the thorn in his cushion, 
and he only compassed repose by forgetting 
me altogether. He disapproved of my choice 
of a profession, root and branch. When he 
and mother married he offered me a home 
on condition that I gave up the hospital 
altogether." 

Hilary nodded. " He seems to have been 
fond of making conditions." 

Frances looked at her sharply, but there was 
nothing but good-tempered interest in her story 
on the frank, sunny face of her. companion. 



1 8 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

" It did not take me long to decide that I 
could not give up all I had been working for. 
Why, I would rather live in a garret than 
abjure my profession. I've roomed with another 
student ever since, and it has been the best 
thing in the world for all of us." 

" I wish you lived here, though," Hilary said 
warmly. "It was jolly to find that I had a 
cousin, but you will not be much use if you are 
miles away." 

Frances leaned back in her chair and clasped 
her thin fingers behind her close-cropped head. 

"You will see enough of me, I daresay, 
though I've no time for gossiping. I should 
not be here now if someone had not taken 
my part and left me to hang about without 
anything to go on with." 

Hilary was wondering what a "part" was 
and framing a question when the door opened 
and Mrs. Pederson swept in like a whirlwind. 

"My dear Hilary, to think you should 
arrive in this way without kiss or welcome 1 " 

She bore breathlessly down upon the girl 
and folded her in the embrace of two bony 
arms, while her eyes wandered across the room 
to its other occupant. 

"You here, Frances! I'm sure I ought 



FRANCES. 19 

to be flattered by such an unusual show of 
attention." 

"No doubt you are, my dear mother," 
Frances responded coolly. "You certainly owe 
me some thanks for taking your place this 
afternoon and doing my small best to make 
up for your absence. It looked a little unkind 
to Hilary to let her come 'without kiss or 
welcome,' as you put it." 

" I don't need you to teach me what I 
should do or leave undone," Mrs. Pederson 
retorted tartly, as she sank into a chair, tossed 
her little sailor hat upon another, and threw 
open her smart fawn coat. "You might have 
had sense to order some tea." 

She rang the bell with a jerk which filled 
the house with discordant clangour. 

Hilary, during these amenities, sat silently 
studying her hostess, divided between mirth 
and dismay. She had never before met anyone 
the least like her, and mentally compared her 
with dear old Madame Brun, who had so 
beautifully mastered the art of growing old 
gracefully. 

Mrs. Pederson was a thin, fashionably 
attired woman of sixty or so, with an expres- 
sion partly of ill-health and partly of discontent 



2O MRS. PEDERSON' s NIECE 

on her pinched, colourless face. Her grey hair 
was curled stiffly back from her forehead in a 
fashion which reminded Hilary of nothing so 
much as a corrugated iron fence. It was said 
that Mrs. Pederson had been a beauty in her 
youth, and there were some who believed the 
rumour. Mrs. Pederson did so herself, and 
dressed to suit the part in bold defiance of 
the ravages of time. 

In spite of her failure in the matter of a 
welcome, she was frankly pleased to see her 
niece, and her questions concerning her journey 
and the schooldays which lay behind it were 
kind and well-meant. They chatted over the 
tea-table until Frances began to make ready to 
depart, and then Mrs. Pederson rang for a maid 
to take Hilary to the room prepared for her. 

"You mustn't go till you tell me what you 
think of her, Frances," she said, as soon as 
they were alone. Though there was not 
much warmth in her affection for her daughter, 
she relied a good deal on her judgment. 
" Do you think I shall get on with her ? 
She seems nice, and quite a child in spite 
of her age." 

Frances stared into the gaily decorated 
grate as she answered : 



FRANCES. 21 

" I wish she had not come, though you 
will like her well enough. She is not our 
sort, mother a cut above us, just as the Major 
was." 

Mrs. Pederson reddened and tossed her head. 
She was one of those who resent superiority 
in an acquaintance and regard it as an insult 
in a relative. 

"The Pedersons have always been as poor as 
church mice/' she said crossly. "The Kemsings 
could have bought them up any time these 
twenty years. This girl has only her ninety 
pounds a year, whilst you and I, my good 
Frances, may call ourselves fairly well-off." 

Frances straightened her hat before the 
glass, and her lip curled disagreeably. 

" I suppose it is no use me telling you 
once again, my dear mother, that money is 
not everything. There are a few things it 
cannot buy, things that are as natural as the 
air we breathe to Hilary and the Major. 
There are some of your visitors, too, whom 
she might not care to meet." 

Mrs. Pederson's thin face flushed with anger 
and her ringers worked nervously. 

"I don't know what you mean, Frances. 
You were always a disrespectful child." 



22 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

Frances looked at her with a softening of 
her dark eyes. After all, it was never any 
use arguing with her mother, and it widened 
the breach which, in her better moments, the 
girl honestly regretted. 

"Poor dear mother, I always rub you up 
the wrong way," she said, with a laugh. 
"Perhaps you'll get more satisfaction out of 
Hilary. If you'll let her, I'm sure she will 
love you. She is simply overflowing with good- 
will." 

Yet as she walked back to her rooms in 
Skone Street, Frances wished heartily that it 
had not occurred to her stepfather to stipulate 
for Hilary's presence in Markham Square. 

"It came of his disapproval of me," she 
said shrewdly. "He wouldn't have the mater 
left to her own resources entirely. He was 
afraid that if she got lonely she would be 
driven to commandeer me. Poor, dear mother! 
she won't have anything to complain of in 
the substitute he has provided if one may 
judge from first impressions." 



CHAPTER III. 

COBWEBS. 

"MY dear Hilary, do you remember that it is 
exactly three months since you came to be my 
dear little daughter ? " Mrs. Pederson always 
ignored the manifest fact that her niece was 
nearly a head taller than herself. " Three happy 
months I I never dreamed that we should get 
on so admirably together." She smiled ex- 
pansively and looked at her companion with 
her head drooped languishingly on one side. 

They were seated at luncheon in the 
commonplace dining-room, which always seemed 
to Hilary the ugliest and dullest room 
imaginable. 

"I had awful visions, you know," Mrs. 
Pederson went on gaily, "visions of a blowsy 
schoolgirl, with red cheeks and aggressive 
manners, who would be always in the way. 
It was such a relief to find we did not interfere 
with each other's pleasure in the least, but got 
on perfectly." 

Hilary smiled inscrutably. She had soon 



24 MRS. PEDERSON' s NIECE. 

discovered that " getting on " with Mrs, 
Pederson meant following her lead unquestion- 
ingly, and having no private ends at all to 
serve. 

" I'm sure I'm glad you are pleased with 
me, Aunt Sophie," she replied good-temperedly. 
" It would have been distinctly unpleasant if I 
had not happened to suit you." 

Mrs. Pederson laughed. "How outspoken 
you are, child ! But there's nothing I admire 
more than perfect openness. I always spit 
out just what I feel myself and never think 
another word about it. I remember so well 
what my poor old father used to say he was 
a Thames pilot, you know, in the days 
when fortunes were made on the river : ' Sophie, 
mind this, if there's to be peace in a house, 
there must be no secrets and perfect oneness 
of mind.' I've thought of his words many a 
time, but I never could get Pederson to see 
the truth of them. Your uncle Gervase was an 
awful man for having his own way." 

Hilary bent over her plate to hide the 
merriment in her blue eyes. Under Mrs. 
Pederson's roof there must be only one mind 
and that her own. If the late Major were 
fond of his own way there was little wonder 



COBWEBS. 25 

that life had not run very smoothly at No. 10. 
It was not that Mrs. Pederson meant to be 
tyrannical, but she laboured under a constitu- 
tional disability to see any aspect of a question 
except her own. 

If Hilary had come to Markham Square 
with any ideas of finding life there wider and 
more full of change than that she had spent 
under Madame Brim's roof, she was woefully 
mistaken. Every moment was occupied, but 
there was a lamentable monotony in the 
manner of filling them. Mrs. Pederson 
monopolised her throughout the day whilst 
protesting that she desired to leave her entirely 
free to please herself. From the morning hour 
when, breakfast over, she drew an armchair to 
the window and sat down to absorb the 
contents of the newspaper, she claimed the 
girl's undivided attention and resented any 
diminution of her interest in the discussion 
of the day's doings. 

Mrs. Pederson was one of those who like 
to put each hour, as it were, in a frame, and 
her arrangements, like the laws of the Medes 
and Persians, were irrefragable. Not until she 
went away on household cares intent could 
Hilary feel at liberty to take up her book or 



26 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

open her letters. Even then she was subject to 
little tempestuous visits, for Aunt Sophie had 
no idea of enjoying a surprise or enduring a 
wrong at the hands of her staff without sharing 
it with every member of the household. 

At No. 10, Markham Square, the perfection 
of cleanliness and order was only achieved by 
an enormous expenditure of noise and confusion. 
The cook, housemaids, and the invaluable 
Mantle were marshalled hither and thither at 
Mrs. Pederson's command, and her voice could 
be continually heard, chanticleering orders from 
distant parts of the house. 

Hilary declared that it was fatiguing to 
follow, even in thought, the race-course of 
Aunt Sophie's day. She was one of those 
tirelessly busy people whose energy does not 
require a serious object. To the smallest detail 
she gave the heated discussion and the concen- 
tration of attention which most people reserve 
for epoch-making crises. 

Those who knew the late Major Pederson 
wondered sometimes what could have induced 
him to marry a woman so oddly different 
from the women of his own class, and a few 
whispered that her substantial fortune had been 
a temptation. The Major had always been an 



COBWEBS. 27 

extravagant and self-indulgent man, and half-pay 
leaves little margin for luxuries. His reward 
had been in excess of that usually accorded to 
those who marry for mean motives. In spite of 
her eccentricities, Mrs. Pederson made him a 
devoted and admiring wife. There was no 
denying her goodness of heart even when her 
manners left most to be desired. 

She looked up from the newspaper which 
always lay beside her plate when Hilary rose 
from the table. 

" Are you going already, my dear ? I was 
about to tell you of Eliza's rudeness to me this 

morning. Her conduct was such Well, 

there was nothing for it but to give her notice." 

Hilary shook her head. "I really can't stay 
now, Aunt .Sophie, so please let the tale of 
Eliza's enormities wait. You remember I 
promised to go round to Frances' lodgings at 
two o'clock. She has an afternoon free, and 
we are going somewhere together." 

Mrs. Pederson's smile vanished, and she 
tossed her head crossly. The friendship which 
had sprung up between the two girls had not 
the seal of her approval. It threatened to limit 
her own share of Hilary's society, and though 
she could be generous on a large scale, in 



28 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

small matters she was essentially mean. She 
said to herself that it was solely on Hilary's 
account she objected to the intimacy. Frances 
had always been opinionated and unmanage- 
able. She had never, even as a child, shown 
proper respect to her elders, and she would try 
to imbue Hilary with her wild independent 
notions. 

"This is the third time in a fortnight you 
have spent half the day with Frances, 
Hilary," she said, in a tone which was itself an 
impeachment. "You see more in Frances than 
most people do, I must say. I'm glad, poor 
girl, that somebody finds her amiable. She 
can't have many friends with her bad temper. 
But don't forget, my dear, that your uncle 
desired you to be my companion, not Frances'. 
I have always the first claim." 

Hilary nodded, and a little smile curved her 
mouth. She was used to Aunt Sophie's protests 
now and they did not ruffle her in the least. 

"I'll send a note to Frances and ask her to 
come here, if you really want me, dear," she said 
good-temperedly. " I thought you overheard 
me make the arrangement with Frances." 

" No, you can go ; I don't want to be a 
check on your pleasures," Mrs. Pederson replied, 



COBWEBS. 29 

with a resigned droop of the corners of her 
mouth. "Only don't forget that I have the 
first claim on you." 

She made the protest merely in accordance 
with her fixed idea that Hilary would be only 
too ready to deny her claims and that it was 
well to keep them before her mind. She was 
secretly glad to be free from the girl's company 
for a few hours, for she expected a visitor 
whom she was by no means anxious to 
introduce to her niece. 

Frances Kemsing lived in a rather dingy 
street off the Tottenham Court Road. The 
house was half-way down, on the shady side, 
and distinguished from its neighbours by a row 
of blue flower-pots in ; which a few pink ivy- 
geraniums had a precarious existence. This 
attempt at decoration was not to be attributed 
to Frances. To everything which did not bear 
upon her work she was absolutely indifferent, 
but she submitted to any amenities projected by 
her companion, Ursula Grantham. 

It was wholly due, also, to Miss Grantham's 
efforts that the front parlour which Hilary 
entered, a few minutes later, was picturesque 
and exquisitely neat. Frances would have 
worked comfortably in chaos, but Ursula loved 



3O MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

to have everything about her as beautiful and 
orderly as herself. 

"Besides, we owe it to the profession to 
look nice and have nice surroundings," she 
would tell Frances decisively. " If we live 
in a muddle and look like a rag-bag we can't 
expect men to imagine that it improves things 
generally for us to take up professions. When 
they begin to talk of the women of other days 
and to praise their domestic virtues, I know 
they have been studying such girls as May 
Limpfield or Anne Meadows, who seem to 
imagine there is some special grace in wearing 
ugly, ill-made gowns and leaving their hair 
unbrushed. You may think yourself fortunate, 
Frances Kemsing, that you have me to look 
after you." 

Frances was bending over a large, workman- 
like table in the window when Hilary came in. 

"Here I am, Frances, having braved Aunt 
Sophie's displeasure to reach you," she cried, 
stooping over her cousin to kiss her. " It is such 
a lovely afternoon that we ought not to waste 
a moment of it indoors." 

"My good child, there's a time for em- 
bracing and a time to refrain from embracing. 
It is the time for refraining, though I can't 



COBWEBS. 31 

expect you to see it," said Frances, coolly 
disengaging herself from Hilary's encircling 
arms. " I've been two solid hours arranging this 
dissection, and I don't want it upset, if you 
please. Just sit down somewhere out of the 
way for a few minutes, and then I will talk 
to you." 

Hilary sat down in a well-cushioned armchair 
which manifestly belonged to the luxurious 
Ursula, and settled herself to wait with 
patience Frances' pleasure. 

In ten minutes the student pushed back her 
chair and stretched her arms out with a tired 
gesture. 

" It's going to be a beautiful dissection. 
These bits of minute work are awfully fascin- 
ating," she said. "I've got to a splendidly 
interesting point Another hour's work will see 
it finished." 

Hilary lifted her eyebrows. 

" My dear Frances, have you forgotten that 
you promised to go out with me ? We've 
tickets for that flower show on the Embank- 
ment." 

Frances ran her ringers through her short 

dark hair and frowned. "Oh, that's out of 

question to-day, Hilary. I'm sorry, but 



32 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

I should not feel happy to leave my work at 
this stage. I should be thinking of my dis- 
section all the time and worrying to get back 
to it." 

"I'm sure you would lose nothing by taking 
an afternoon's rest, Francie," Hilary replied. 
"You work too hard. Ursula Grantham often 
says that to work without any rest or recrea- 
tion is the way to court failure." 

Frances shrugged her shoulders. 

"Oh, don't quote Ursula to me, I have her 
at first hand morning, noon, and night ! " she 
exclaimed sharply. " You must not go by what 
she says. She has ridiculous luck herself in 
exams. She will dance through the finals with 
one half the work we others have to give. 
By the way, Hilary, if you want an outing, you 
might go into Lambeth with her this after- 
noon. I'm sure she will be glad of your 
company, and then the thought of having spoilt 
your afternoon will be off my mind. Here 
she comes, all ready to start. Nuttie, I want 
you to take Hilary with you. I promised to 
go with her to a flower show, but at the point 
of departure I am too busy." 

"That's your way, and a very bad way it 
is, Francie," said the newcomer, smiling. She 



COBWEBS. 33 

was a tall girl, fair-haired, with a calm, strong 
face which showed none of the strain and the 
eager unrest which was in Frances'. She 
might have been the model for Werther's 
Charlotte of bread-and-butter-cutting fame, though 
she had taken her Tripos at Cambridge and 
ranked among the most brilliant students of 
her hospital. Hilary admired her greatly. If 
Frances had been her sole example of the 
student and the hard worker she might have 
been inclined to agree with Mrs. Pederson 
that such careers were a mistake for girls, 
but Ursula Grantham forever reversed such 
opinions. You could not imagine a sick- 
room or a scene of misery which would not 
be the brighter and better for beautiful, serene 
Ursula Grantham's presence. 

Hilary was not surprised to find that 
Miss Grantham's errand this afternoon was one 
of charity. She had promised to find out 
the friends of a girl who had been brought 
into the hospital a few days before and to make 
them acquainted with the patient's progress. 
It was like Ursula to allow such a mission to 
dip into her scanty leisure, and Frances had 
not scrupled to call her a fool for her pains. 



CHAPTER IV. 
MRS. PEDERSON'S VISITOR. 

URSULA GRANTHAM'S destination was a cer- 
tain street not far from the Westminster 
Bridge Road, a squalid, irregularly built street, 
where a public-house at one corner and a 
fried fish shop at another vied with one another 
in odorising the air. The pavement swarmed 
with children, and at the doors dirty, unkempt 
women suspended their gossip to stare at the 
two girls. 

It was evident that Ursula was no stranger 
in Cross Street. Three or four women wished her 
a "good afternoon" and she readily obtained 
what information she required to find Maude 
Flitter's home. 

The name "Flitter" appeared in faded 
letters over a second-hand clothes shop some 
way down the street, and, bidding Hilary wait 
outside for her, Ursula dived into its gloomy 
recesses. 

She reappeared presently, followed by a 
red-faced woman, who was talking volubly and 



MRS. PEDERSON'S VISITOR. 35 

darning at the same time a much-worn coat. 
Ursula looked vexed and hot, and, after a 
little more talk with the woman, said "good 
afternoon " and joined Hilary. 

"You don't look as though the interview 
had been a pleasant one, Ursula," Hilary said 
as they turned homeward. 

Ursula shook her head. "It appears that 
Maude went to the hospital against her mother's 
wish. Mrs. Flitter has a rooted belief that 
hospitals are repositories where we kill off the 
patients in the shortest possible time for our 
own ends. She wants Maude home, though I 
assured her that the girl is doing splendidly. 
I made a point of asking the ward sister to-day 
that I might give the latest news. Of course, 
we have nothing to do with the patients our- 
selves, though I go and chat with several of 
them when I have a few minutes to spare. 
It is one of the forms of recreation I indulge 
in, you know, when I get fagged with the 
work. 

" It is more than that, Ursula," Hilary re- 
plied quietly. "Who is it says that our recrea- 
tions, not our labours, are the index to our 
characters ? Somehow," she added, laughing, 
" I can fancy you a nurse, or a Sister of the 



36 MRS. PEDEKSON'S NIECE. 

Poor, or a deaconess of some kind ; but to 
imagine you a doctor, sitting in a luxurious 
consulting-room, waiting for patients, seems 
ridiculous." 

Ursula joined in the laugh. "Well it may, 
indeed. I could not fancy myself in that 
position at all. No, Hilary, I have my ambitions, 
but they do not run in that direction." 

"Why, I thought you and Frances thought 
of nothing else but passing the exams, and 
taking your degrees," Hilary said. 

Ursula walked on in silence for a few 
minutes. 

"I love my work, and, of course, I care 
immensely about passing the finals well; but 
they are the steps to a very different end to 
that you picture," she said quietly. "Some day 
I mean to practise down in these mean streets, 
to use my skill and knowledge for the benefit of 
these poor people, who are so ignorant that they 
will seldom come to us at the hospital until they 
are past remedies. Some of them are actually 
afraid of us. You cannot imagine what stories 
I have heard from them. They think we want 
their poor, shrunken, emaciated bodies for our 
dissections, and that, once in our clutches, we 
shall never let them go again with their full 



MRS. PEDERSON'S VISITOR. 37 

number of limbs. When I get through, I shall 
come and live down here and teach them to 
think differently. Besides, it is not always 
mere medicine they want. They often need 
what only we girls can give them love, sym- 
pathy, and a gleam of hope for the future. 
The 'doctor' ought to mean more to these 
poor creatures than it does to people in 
happier circumstances." 

Ursula spoke rapidly, and there was amoved 
expression on her usually calm face. 

Hilary pressed her arm as it lay within her 
own. She was always quick to appreciate the 
generous and true-hearted in others, and she 
gave her companion the meed of her girlish 
admiration without stint. 

" No wonder you are so lucky in exams.," 
she said warmly. "You couldn't fail with such 
a motive." 

Ursula nodded thoughtfully. "Yes, I have 
felt that sometimes myself," she said simply; 
"I am helped so that I do not get worried 
and nervous as some of the girls do. The 
work does not hurt one much if one can take 
it quietly." She stopped abruptly, and Hilary 
knew she was thinking of Frances, who mini- 
mised her own chances of success by the feverish 



38 MRS. P ED ER SON'S NIECE. 

eagerness with which she worked and the 
relentlessness of her study. 

It was late in the afternoon when Hilary 
got back to Markham Square. She expected to 
find Aunt Sophie in no very pleasant humour, 
for if there was one thing that lady disliked 
more than another, it was to be kept waiting 
for her tea. Looking at her watch, Hilary saw 
that it must already be carried to the library, 
where Mrs. Pederson elected to drink it during 
the hot days. 

"I wish I could have persuaded Ursula to 
come back with me," she said to herself, 
thinking of the long evening tete-a-tgte with 
Mrs. Pederson which lay before her. She 
knew exactly how it would be spent, and 
laughed a little in amused self-pity. What 
would Madame or her girls think if they 
could see their favourite consuming hour after 
hour in dominoes, beggar-my-neighbour, or spill- 
kins, games which she cordially hated ? 

Mrs. Pederson's sole idea 01 amusement 
was to play games of a more or less exciting 
kind and she threw herself into them with 
ardour. Over the most trivial game she became 
another creature ; her very features seemed to 
sharpen with uncanny interest ; her eyes glittered, 



MRS. PEDERSON'S VISITOR. 39 

and discordant shrieks of glee or dismay marked 
her success or failure. 

Hilary was but a few paces from No. 10 
when the door opened and a young man came 
down the steps. The girl glanced at him 
curiously, though she had long ago discovered 
that Mrs. Pederson received visitors who could 
scarcely belong to her own world, and whose 
presence she explained vaguely to her niece as" 
" business." 

He was a short, clean-shaven man, showily 
dressed in a snuff-coloured check suit and a 
brilliant tie confined in a heavy gold ring. He 
stared at Hilary with admiration in his beady 
brown eyes as she passed him, and turned to 
stare again, whistling softly, as she went up the 
steps he had just descended. 

" What an odious man 1 " Hilary said to her- 
self, as she opened the door with her latchkey. 
" What can have been his business with Aunt 
Sophie?" 

She went quickly across the hall and opened 
the door of the library. On the threshold she 
paused abruptly and caught her breath in 
surprise. 

The setting sun illumined the room and 
showed Mrs. Pederson crouched on the hearth- 



4O MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

rug, swaying to and fro in a storm of petulant 
sobs, while she called on powers visible and 
invisible to witness that she was a cheated and 
ruined woman. 

" Dear Aunt Sophie, what is the matter ? 
Who has been injuring you ? " Hilary cried, 
running across the room and kneeling down 
beside this victim of outrageous fortune. "Has 
that odious man been insulting you ? He 
looked capable of it ! " 

Mrs. Pederson sprang to her feet with an 
agility remarkable considering her age. 

" How you startled me, Hilary ! I had no 
idea you were in the house ! " she exclaimed 
angrily. " And what are you talking about ? 
If it is Chivers Smith you are calling ' odious,' 
let me tell you that is my man of business 
and my very good friend, and I expect him to 
be treated with respect when he comes to my 
house. I hope to goodness you have not been 
treating him to any of your high and mighty 
airs." There was a shade of anxiety under 
the coarse petulance of the excited woman's 
tone. 

Hilary leaned against the corner of the 
table and looked at her aunt with a rising 
colour. 



MRS. PEDERSON'S VISITOR. 41 

"Do you mean a vulgar little man with a 
horsey air and diabolically dressed, whom I 
saw leave the house just a few minutes ago ? " 
she asked coldly. "I hope I am never rude 
to anyone, and as I had no opportunity nor 
desire to speak to him, he cannot resent any- 
thing I have said." 

Mrs. Pederson looked at her for a moment 
in speechless exasperation ; when Hilary spoke 
in that tone, "just the Major's tone," she 
always felt herself hopelessly at a disadvantage. 
Then she dropped into a chair and began to 
sob with childish abandon. There was nothing 
pathetic about poor Mrs. Pederson's woe. Her 
cast of countenance was not fashioned for 
tears, and Hilary, despite her ruffled feelings, 
struggled for a moment with emotions sadly 
out of harmony with the Scriptural injunction 
to weep with those that weep. 

She came nearer and put her arm round her 
aunt's thin shoulders. 

"Do tell me what troubles you, Aunt 
Sophie," she begged, touched by a grief which 
must surely be great though she was entirely 
ignorant of its cause. "You surely don't mean 
me to conclude that little monster has the 
power to move you like this ? " 



42 MRS. PEDERSON' s NIECE. 

There was a faint diminution of the petulant 
sobs, and Hilary went on coaxingly. 

" Of course, I may not be able to help you 
in the least, but it generally makes things 
easier to bear when someone shares the burden. 
I have felt ever since I came that you had 
some hidden worries." 

Mrs. Pederson looked into the girlish 
face bent to hers hesitatingly, then she 
wrenched herself impatiently from the en- 
circling arm. 

" What nonsense you are talking, Hilary ! 
You are like the Major, always making moun- 
tains out of molehills. What worries should I 
have, pray, beyond the wear and tear of 
managing the house and my money matters, 
though you are enough, I am sure, to drive 
one to the verge of insanity. I have got one 
of my neuralgic attacks, and talking to Chivers 
Smith has made it unbearable." 

Hilary moved away to the window, her 
head held high and a hard look in her blue 
eyes. She was not used to having her sympathy 
thrust aside as superfluous, and she knew Mrs. 
Pederson was not honest with her. With 
the haste of youth she concluded that the 
falsehood hid something discreditable, and she 



. PEDERSON'S VISITOR. 43 

told herself that she wished to know nothing 
about it. 

She stood looking across at the tall grey 
houses on the other side of the square, feeling 
her spirit in revolt against the narrowness and 
the vague entanglements of the life she had 
now to live, full of longing for the old quiet, 
sunny life, in which the searchlight of truth 
could find nothing to bring a blush to the 
cheek. 

Mrs. Pederson's metallic voice broke the 
uncomfortable silence. 

" I don't want your pity and all that sort of 
thing, but perhaps you will not mind taking 
the trouble to tell Mantle that I'll have some 
tea in my own room," she said. "This is too 
cold to drink now and the muffins are like 
leather. Tell her she may toast me two more, 
and I shan't come down to dinner. I daresay 
you can manage to amuse yourself." 

Hilary assented gravely. 

" I'll tell Mantle what you say," she replied, 
without looking round. 

At the door Mrs. Pederson stopped and stood 
for a minute fingering the door-plate. 

"When you see Frances, Hilary, you need 
not tell her that Olivers Smith called," she 



44 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

said sharply. "I know you girls exchange all 
sorts of confidences." 

"No, I won't mention it," Hilary said, still 
without turning her head. 

Mrs. Pederson looked at her curiously and 
then went out, banging the door noisily behind 
her. 

Hilary stood for a long time looking 
into the quiet square in which the twilight 
was gathering. In one window after another 
of the houses opposite sprang a yellow spark 
of gaslight, and the lamplighter on the pave- 
ment was running from post to post with his 
long rod. The girl watched him with unseeing 
eyes, busy with her own thoughts. 

Three months 1 It seemed like as many 
years since she left Paris. She had wondered 
then how she should adapt herself to her 
altered circumstances. She found it no question 
of adaptation. She moved on another plane 
altogether, a plane where "the comely 
fashion to be glad," which had hitherto been 
the rule of her life, was surprisingly difficult 
to follow. 

The air seemed full of sordid little cares, of 
mysteries and uncertainties of which she was 
vaguely conscious without being able to define 



MRS. PEDERSON' s VISITOR. 45 

them. They clung about her like cobwebs, 
and she could not get free from their stifling 
influence. 

The business-like documents which came so 
often, and which Mrs. Pederson read with such 
feverish eagerness and hid away lest Frances 
should see them, the frequent expeditions into 
the City, vaguely explained as "business," the 
commonplace, often vulgar, visitors who left 
behind them a worried and irritable hostess, all 
suggested to Hilary something below the surface 
she was not allowed to know. 

" It's a thousand pities that .like the lamented 
Sherlock Holmes, I cannot help being observ- 
ant," she said, shrugging her shoulders. " I 
hate myself for developing such a talent for 
suspicion. Besides, it is so much more comfort- 
able not to see things you are not meant to 
see, and to be certain that everything about 
you is right and straightforward. I am not 
surprised that Aunt Sophie should not consult 
me about her business, but why should she 
make such a point of keeping Frances in the 
dark about the merest details ? " 

She knew that, in her own way, Mrs. 
Pederson loved Frances and relied on her 
judgment. If she feared Frances' criticism it 



46 Mas. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

must be because she knew that Frances would 
condemn. 

Mrs. Pederson did not appear again, and 
Hilary ate her dinner in solitary state. It was 
some compensation to remember that there 
would be no spilikins or dominoes to wile 
away the long evening hours. She went back 
to the library and sat down to write her 
weekly letter to Madame Brun. It was 
astonishing how much she found to tell her old 
governess, and she enjoyed the writing of these 
letters almost as much as Madame Brun did 
the reading of them. 

This evening the tide of Hilary's eloquence 
ebbed to extinction. She could not concentrate 
her mind on a vivacious account of her after- 
noon's expedition, nor find words to tell of 
the week's happenings. 

In spite of a valiant determination not to 
trouble herself about Aunt Sophie's affairs, the 
thought of her vexation and its evident connec- 
tion with Chivers Smith would come between 
her and the sheets of paper. 

Hilary's was a singularly open and direct 
nature. She disliked any necessity for conceal- 
ment and abhorred deceit. To know that those 
with whom she must spend her life had 



MRS. PEDERSON'S VISITOR. 47 

schemes and worries of which she was kept 
ignorant, presumably because she was unfit or 
not trustworthy enough to share them, hurt 
and angered her. If there were wrong she did 
not wish to know it, but she wanted to be 
allowed to help and sympathise in any trouble. 

She got up and moved restlessly about the 
room. Like all Mrs. Pederson's rooms, it was 
hot and close, and the aroma of the afternoon's 
muffins still hung about it. She longed to 
throw open one of the windows, but that 
would have been a bold defiance of the rules 
of the house. At sundown every window ot 
No. 10 was shut and bolted for the night. 

"Ill finish my letter and go out and post 
it," she said, sitting down at the writing-table 
again. "A breath of fresh air will blow away 
the dismals ; I hate to feel mopish and dull." 

She added a few lines to her letter, saying 
she was "too tired, cross, worried, anything 
dear Madame liked to think, to continue the 
history of her daily doings," then folded the 
sheet of paper, put it into an envelope and 
addressed it. 

Mantle was crossing the hall as Hilary 
unbolted the hall door. 

" Miss Hilary 1 You are not going out at 



48 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

this hour of the night surely ? " she exclaimed. 
" Whatever would mistress say 1 If you want 
your letter posted particular to-night, I'll send 
Eliza with it." 

Hilary laughed and shook her head. 

" I shall not be gone ten minutes, and no one 
will hurt me," she said. "A breath of fresh 
air I must and will have, even at the risk of 
shocking you and Mrs. Grundy, my good 
Mantle." 

The maid looked dubious and half inclined to 
follow the girl, but Hilary settled the matter 
by shutting the door behind her and running 
down the steps into the square. 

The nearest letter-box was in the next 
square, and as Hilary walked briskly towards 
it, she felt her spirits rise. The cool air 
fanned her cheeks and the rapid movement 
stirred her blood. 

"After all," she said, half aloud, "I may, 
as Aunt Sophie says, be making a mountain 
out of a molehill. I must not judge her by 
the standard of manners and feelings set up by 
dear Madame." 

She paused under the gas-lamp beside the 
letter-box to verify the address before commit- 
ting her missive to the post. 



Mas. PEDERSON'S VISITOR. 49 

A man, passing at the moment, stared at 
the girlish face lit by the falling light, and 
stopped abruptly with a familiar " Good 
evening." 

Hilary started and looked at the stranger 
with surprise and annoyance, then turned away 
with her head held high. She had recognised 
at once the thick-set figure in the loud check 
suit, and concluded rightly that its owner had 
seen her enter No. 10 earlier in the day. But 
that gave him no right to address her, she 
said to herself indignantly. She might live 
under Aunt Sophie's roof, but that lady's 
acquaintances were not necessarily hers. 

Chivers Smith seemed to think otherwise. He 
lifted his hat and turned to walk with her in 
the direction of Markham Square. 

"Miss Pederson, I think," he said coolly. 
"The moment I saw you under the lamp I 
said in the words of the song, ' Where have I 
seen that face before ? ' and then it came back 
to me like a shot. I saw you go into No. 10 
this afternoon, and since you had a latchkey 
I made a good guess that you lived there. 
You are the niece the old lady has talked 
about, and too pretty a girl to be mixed up 
with her little affairs." 



5O MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECS. 

Hilary interrupted him in a tone which 
was meant to be cutting, though he walked on 
with her apparently unwounded. 

"Please go away. I do not know you and 
you have no right to speak to me." 

"If you have not heard of Chivers Smith, 
my dear young lady, you will live and learn," 
he said genially. "I don't need you to tell 
me it is not just the correct thing to make 
myself known to you like this, but it's worth 
your while to listen to me. If you'll take my 
advice you won't cut up rough when Chivers 
Smith wants to give you a tip." 

Hilary's cheeks burned and she quickened 
her pace. She had not even guessed that the 
world held such odious people as the man 
beside her, and that he should speak to her 
in this manner was incredible. He threatened 
her too ! No doubt he menaced poor Aunt 
Sophie in the same manner; but she was not 
afraid of him as Aunt Sophie manifestly was, 
though why she should be was past understand- 
ing. What power could he really have over a 
woman in Mrs. Pederson's position ? What claim 
could he possibly hold against her ? 

"Your threats are nothing to me," she said 
contemptuously. " I do not wish to hear any- 



MRS. PEDERSON' s VISITOR. 51 

thing you may have to say. What harm could 
you ever do me or Mrs. Pederson, even if you 
had the heart to inflict injury on a fellow 
creature ? " 

The young man laughed with evident amuse- 
ment. 

"In our way of business we don't stop 
short through any little weaknesses of the 
heart," he said, disagreeably. "You may be 
sure of this, though, that any harm that comes 
to Mrs. Pederson will lie at her own door. 
She won't want much helping. There aren't 
many have her spirit and go." 

Hilary bit her lip. Would she never reach 
No. 10, and was there no way of shaking off 
this detestable man ? Why had she not been 
guided by Mantle, who saw the folly of 
strolling out alone after dinner ? She walked 
swiftly, looking straight before her, her eyes 
ablaze with indignation. 

"I say, you are thinking me an awful cad, 
Miss Pederson." 

Hilary did not deny the fact, though it only 
faintly described her feeling. 

"And honestly, I only wanted to give you a 
tip. It is the first and only thoroughly dis- 
interested thing that has ever been set to my 



52 MRS. PEDERSON'S 

credit, and it seems as though kindness doesn't 
pay very high dividends," the young man said, 
in a tone of half-mocking apology. 

Hilary turned and looked him full in the 
face. 

"Your ideas of kindness and honour and 
mine differ. I refuse to hear my aunt's private 
business from any lips but her own. As for 
your threats and your hints of future disaster 
unless we court your favour, I do not care for 
them in the least. You may have a score of 
evil plots in your mind, but I will never 
believe that a man like you has power to hurt 
me or mine." 

She saw that for some reason her words hit 
him hard, and she was glad of it She turned 
from him, and running up the steps, let 
herself into the house and shut the door 
behind her. 

Chivers Smith stood for a moment on the 
pavement looking after her. Then he laughed 
softly and thrust his hands deep in the pockets 
of his short coat 

"I like her spirit and that way she has of 
looking straight at one, but spirit and pride 
won't help her if she's dependent on the old 
lady. It'll be a pity, for she's a cut above 



MRS. PEDERSON'S VISITOR. 53 

Mrs. P. and worth a better fate than losing 
her bottom dollar." 

He moved off in the direction of the City, 
whistling thoughtfully. It was not often that 
Chivers Smith thought for half an hour con- 
secutively of anything but money, but to-night, 
as he let himself into his dingy office in 
Chancery Lane, he was still thinking of Hilary 
Pederson and the lift of her head as she told 
him that her thoughts were not his thoughts 
nor her world his world. 

In the chequered course of his life it had 
not fallen to his lot to see many girls of 
Hilary's type. His own sisters were altogether 
different, and they were almost strangers to him. 
Nor had their open contempt for himself tended 
to bridge the gulf or to sweeten the relations 
between them. Men and women usually 
showed their darkest side to Chivers Smith, 
and his intercourse with them was seldom 
pleasant. 

Nominally a stockbroker, he was actually 
a moneylender of the most usurious type, and 
those who came to his little office seldom 
cherished any but the most bitter memories of 
their transactions with him. His brokerage 
seemed mere gambling when their money was 



54 Mas. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

gone, and his loans, so genially offered, were of 
no tangible or lasting benefit. 

One thing was certain, the young man was 
laying by money and might already be called 
wealthy. It was his ambition to be a 
prominent man in the City and to take his 
place in a social circle above that in which he 
had been born. He believed that he could 
achieve these heights if he were rich, extra- 
ordinarily rich, and to the making of money 
he set himself to the exclusion of all other 
interests. 

To-night, after his interview with Hilary, 
he felt that he had caught a glimpse of the 
world it was his ambition to enter, and which 
he began dimly to see was not all money- 
making and self-aggrandisement. Something in 
Hilary's clear eyes told him more convincingly 
than words that she would never sell honour 
for social position, nor would she cringe before 
him though he robbed her of her last penny. 
He might cheat her and defraud her, but she 
would have no feeling for him but contempt 
or pity. If she were driven to sweep a crossing 
for a living she would still be miles above 
him. She breathed a mental atmosphere too 
rarefied for him. 



MRS. PEDERSON'S VISITOR. 55 

No one is wholly base or callous, and that 
Chivers Smith could recognise these qualities in 
Hilary Pederson in one brief interview, and give 
them the meed of his admiration, argued that 
he was not yet wholly the slave of greed. 

Hilary had builded better than she knew 
that night. 



CHAPTER V. 

A NEW FRIEND. 

MRS. PEDERSON had this grace, she never 
nursed her grievances. They might overwhelm 
her for the moment, but when she found they 
did not kill, she rose superior to them. 

She came down to breakfast next morning 
with a face wreathed with smiles, and in a blouse 
of exceptional smartness. 

Evidently the painful hour in the library 
was to be ignored, and Hilary discreetly ab- 
stained from inquiry concerning the neuralgic 
headache. 

"My dear Hilary, I have made such a 
delightful plan for spending the day," Mrs. 
Pederson said, when her temporal needs had 
been carefully supplied and Eliza had been 
twice summoned to convey messages of com- 
plaint and reproof to the cook. "A delightful 
whole day's outing. It came into my head 
as I lay awake this morning." 

Hilary looked up from her plate without 
any overpowering sense of elation. She shrewdly 



A NEW FRIEND. 57 

guessed that the main object of these matutinal 
cogitations was to supply her with a new 
interest which should oust any tendency to 
dwell on the visit of Chivers Smith. 

"I have not seen my cousin Paul Kemsing 
for months," Mrs. Pederson went on airily. 
"He is an artist, you know, with a charming 
house at Sydenham, quite a palatial place in 
its way, not large, but exquisitely furnished. I 
believe he got one of the big firms to do it 
throughout, though, of course, under his own 
direction. Paul always had such queer taste 
the fruit of having the artistic temperament, I 
suppose. I have not seen anything of him for 
ages, for he and your Uncle Gervase did not 
get on very well. It is a lovely morning, we 
could not have a nicer day for an excursion. 
I will send Eliza to order a carriage and we 
will drive down to Sydenham to lunch." 

"But, Aunt Sophie, if we are not expected 
won't it be awkward for Mr. Kemsing to have 
us pounce down on him in that unceremonious 
way ? " said Hilary, though the expedition 
sounded inviting. 

Mrs. Pederson tossed her head. 

" My goodness, Hilary ! as if relations couldn't 
visit without a formal invitation. And to describe 



58 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

my lunching with my cousin Paul as ' pouncing ' I 
I might be a hawk or a beast of prey to 
hear you ! " 

" I recall the opprobrious term/' said Hilary, 
laughing. "If you are sure that Mr. Kemsing 
will welcome us, it will be a delightful outing." 

"There is the Crystal Palace to fall back 
upon if Paul happens to be away from home," 
Mrs. Pederson added, as she proceeded with her 
breakfast and advised Hilary to follow her 
example. 

"Pleasuring is hungry work," she explained; 
"I always make a point of taking plenty of 
support before I start." 

It was arranged that they should leave 
Markham Square at eleven o'clock, and five 
minutes before that hour Hilary stood in the 
dining-room window ready to start. Mrs. Peder- 
son's voice could be heard in the hall, chanti- 
cleering a few final orders to the much-enduring 
Mantle with an energy unsubdued by the heat 
of the day. 

"Oh, how can people fuss so with the 
thermometer at seventy in the shade ? " said 
Hilary to herself, as she picked up her sun- 
shade. A glance into the square, however, 
told her that this would be a superfluous 



A NEW FRIEND. 59 

addition to her toilet. With her usual pre- 
caution against draughts and chills, Mrs. Peder- 
son had ordered a closed carriage. 

" Oh, dear ! I wish I had not started the 
day with a headache," sighed the girl, as she 
went slowly down the steps and took her seat 
beside her aunt. "It will be terribly hot boxed 
up in a brougham this warm morning." 

" I'm glad I thought of taking you to Syden- 
ham to-day, Hilary," Mrs. Pederson said, as the 
carriage rolled out of Markham Square. "You 
look quite pale and as though a breath of 
country air would be just the thing for you. 
You've a headache ? I've never known you to 
have one before, so it must be the heat. Take 
my vinaigrette, it's an invaluable specific. I 
want my little adopted daughter to make a 
good impression on Paul Kemsing." 

She pressed the gold-topped bottle fussily 
upon Hilary, who declared the headache would 
pass away, and declined the remedy. 

Aunt Sophie shook her head dubiously. 
She had a firm belief that no malady "passed" 
without stringent measures, and for headache 
that particular vinaigrette was simply miracu- 
lous. She chattered on of numerous acquaint- 
ances who had tested its virtues and risen up 



6o MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECB. 

to call hei> blessed, whilst Hilary listened 
dreamily, putting in a word now and then as 
an earnest of her attention. 

She did not anticipate much pleasure from 
the visit to the artist ; so many of Aunt 
Sophie's swans turned out to be very common- 
place geese ; but the drive, after a while, be- 
came delightful. The carriage bowled through 
tree-shaded roads, past parks and well-kept 
gardens ablaze with flowers. 

"I wished we lived out here instead of in 
dull Markham Square, Aunt Sophie," she said, 
craning her head out of the window in a most 
undignified fashion. " Isn't it possible for us to 
change our abode ? " 

Mrs. Pederson shook her head. "Thank 
goodness, I've a long lease of the house ; but 
I would not leave it if I could. I should die 
if I had to stay here a whole month. It is 
pretty enough, but give me the streets and the 
shops, with plenty of life and stir. Your uncle 
once took a house on Dartford Heath for a 
year, but the empty, endless days drove me 
wild. If I had not been able to run up to 
town once a week and bike all over the 
place I should have gone mad." 

Mrs, Pederson was an ardent cyclist despite 



A NEW FRIEND. 61 

the fact that she rode execrably, and always 
returned from a ride with the exultant air of 
one who has faced death and conquered it by 
her own skill and agility. Her description of 
a ride always bristled with hairbreadth escapes 
and unlucky "spills." 

"We will cycle down here next time we 
come, Hilary," she said with decision. "The 
roads are good, and it is not nearly so far as 
your uncle Gervase pretended. Ah I here we 
are at last. I wonder whether we shall find 
Paul at home." 

The carriage drew up as she spoke at a 
little green gate upon which was painted in 
white letters "The Nook." The gate was set 
in a long brick wall over which peeped a 
tangle of roses and the gnarled branches of 
ancient fruit trees. Through the bloom and the 
lacework of boughs Hilary caught sight of the 
gables and chimneys of a red-brick house set 
high above the road on a grassy bank. 

She sprang out of the carriage and took a 
long breath of the soft, fragrant air, wondering 
how anyone in their senses could prefer the 
dusty, dingy town to this heavenly spot. 

"You can go and find some place to bait 
the horses and return for us in three hours," 



62 MRS. PEDERSON' s NIECE. 

Mrs. Pederson directed the coachman. "Now, 
Hilary, don't stand gaping around you as 
though you had never seen a tree before. Let 
us go up to the house and make sure of some 
luncheon. It's unfortunate that Paul is one 
of the tiresome people who don't care a 
row of pins about their food, for it makes 
the prospect of our being decently fed more 
problematical." 

"Beggars mustn't be choosers," cried Hilary 
merrily. "I feel as though I want nothing but 
the proverbial cup of cold water and permission 
to ramble about this lovely old garden." 

A bell hung beside the gate, and Mrs. 
Pederson pulled it vigorously. In a few minutes 
the gate was opened by an old man with a 
face rosy and wrinkled as a winter apple, and 
eyes which twinkled humorously. 

" I wish to see Mr. Kemsing Mr. Paul 
Kemsing," said Mrs. Pederson. "I wish to see 
him at once." 

She always spoke with great slowness and 
many repetitions when she addressed those of 
a lower station, as though she imagined that 
their faculties were in the same ratio to her own 
as their worldly position. 

"The master is at home, but whether 



A NEW FRIEND. 63 

he's to be seen is a coat of another 
colour," the old man replied, studying the 
visitor as though she were a denizen of another 
world. "He don't set much store by women 
callers; sort of interrupts his work, you see." 
His beady eyes twinkled more than ever. 
"There's some as say that he don't lose 
much anyway." 

"What an extraordinary old man!" Mrs. 
Pederson exclaimed. " I should think Paul must 
be setting up a private lunatic asylum." She 
adopted a louder tone and a more conciliatory 
manner. "My good creature, you don't under- 
stand me. I am not an ordinary caller. I 
am a relation of your master's, a cousin of 
his, by name Mrs. Pederson. Take me and 
my niece to the house and then carry my 
name to your master." 

She stepped quickly across the threshold, 
drawing Hilary after her, and the old man, 
chuckling to himself, led the way to the entrance 
of the house. 

"It's quite an adventure," giggled Mrs. 
Pederson. "Paul always managed to get the 
queerest people about him." 

" It's an uncommonly disagreeable adventure," 
Hilary retorted. "It is not pleasant to feel 



64 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

that one is forcing oneself into the house 
unasked and apparently unwelcomed." 

" What nonsense, child 1 Relations certainly 
have a right to go unasked to each other's 
homes. Paul and I were great friends in the dear 
old 'long ago/ though we certainly quarrelled 
tremendously." 

The old man summoned an elderly house- 
keeper, who led the visitors into a bright little 
morning-room. There she asked them to be 
seated whilst she went to tell Mr. Kemsing 
of their visit. 

What manner of man Hilary expected this 
cousin of Aunt Sophie's to be she scarcely 
knew, but he had no likeness to the real 
Paul Kemsing, who entered a few minutes 
later. 

Mr. Kemsing was tall, he had a very high 
forehead, very shaggy eyebrows which shaded 
blue and kindly eyes, a shy, courteous manner, 
and a humorous smile. He wore a silk stock 
in place of a collar, and a long, oddly 
fashioned coat of buff linen. In spite of this 
strange attire he could not be mistaken for any- 
thing but a gentleman as he came forward to 
greet his visitors. Hilary decided on the spot 
that she liked him, and wondered exceedingly 



A NEW FRIEND. 65 

that he should be even distantly related to 
Mrs. Pederson. 

" My dear Sophie Pederson, this is indeed 
a surprise/' he said ; " I wonder what can have 
recalled my insignificant self to your recollec- 
tion. And who is this young lady? Not 
another daughter of the Major's ? " 

Mrs. Pederson hastened to explain the 
relationship and to introduce Hilary. "Really 
my little adopted daughter, you know," she said 
gushingly. 

" She is fortunate, I do not doubt," he 
replied gravely, yet with an odd twinkle in 
his eyes. He turned to Hilary and set her at 
ease by a few kindly questions about her school 
life, and a word or two of unmistakably sincere 
welcome. 

"You are both going to lunch with me, of 
course. I have already given Mrs. Murdoch direc- 
tions," he said. "It is months since I had the 
company of ladies at my frugal meal. This 
little festivity comes also on a day when I have 
brought successfully to completion the work 
of eighteen months. I always like to mark 
such a day with some festivity, and this is 
certainly more charming than a run up to town 
or a turn in the grounds of the Palace." 



66 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

"Oh, you have finished another picture/' 
cried Mrs. Pederson. "You must show it to 
us after luncheon. I hate to see unfinished 
things, they look such daubs." 

"You shall not see the daubs, I promise t 
you," Mr. Kemsing said, smiling. 

When luncheon was announced he led the 
way to the dining-room. 

A glance told Mrs. Pederson that she need 
have no fears concerning the quality of her 
meal, and she sat down with manifest relief: 
If the artist cared nothing about such details 
himself, his domestic arrangements were in 
excellent hands. A round table was set in the 
bow window overlooking the garden, and upon 
it were spread the daintily garnished dishes, 
the gleaming silver, and the sparkling glass 
which pertain to a delicately served luncheon. 

When they rose from the table the artist 
proposed an adjournment to the studio. Hilary, 
had charmed him by her sweet, frank talk, and 
he had a fancy to see how his latest work 
would strike one who had not been spoilt by 
a surfeit of galleries and was incapable of giving 
him pleasant little insincerities. 

Mrs. Pederson consulted her watch. 

"I told our coachman to come back in three 



A NEW FRIEND. 67 

hours, and we have sat an unconscionable time 
over luncheon. Suppose you take Hilary to 
the studio without me, Paul ? I must ask your 
housekeeper how she made that mayonnaise 
sauce. Those things are really more in my 
line than pictures, you know." 

She bustled off in the direction of the house 
keeper's room, calling for " Murdoch " as though 
she had known that stately personage a dozen 
years. 

The studio to which the old artist led 
Hilary was a large room built out into the 
garden. A great north window filled one end, 
and its walls were draped with quaint 
hangings, and hung with pictures in a more 
or less finished condition. 

"Now, I will show you anything you think 
likely to interest you, Miss Hilary," he said 
kindly. "You must not imagine that you are 
monopolising time I can ill spare ; I am at 
perfect liberty to-day. You must tell me just 
what you think of each picture. It does us old 
people good at times to see how things look 
through the eyes of the young." 

Hilary felt sure that she would never dare 
to criticise, but before long she found herself 
chatting quite unrestrainedly with her kindly 



68 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

host. Long before the hour struck for her 
departure and Mrs. Pederson appeared in the 
wake of the tea she had ordered, they were on 
the border-line of friendship. 

As they studied the pictures and chatted 
about them, the girl had found herself telling 
him of her own little difficulties and the gulf 
which lay between her old life and the new. 

"I can imagine that the atmosphere of 
Markham Square is not quite so rarefied as that 
of the Pension," the artist said slowly. "Tell 
me, my child, are you happy there ? " 

Hilary started, and the colour rushed to 
her cheeks. In the pleasure of talking with 
one who seemed to understand and sympathise, 
she had spoken more unguardedly than she 
intended. She hated to think that her frankness 
savoured of disloyalty to Aunt Sophie. 

" Happy ? Yes. Surely one can be happy 
anywhere," she said lightly. " My old governess 
used to tell us that happiness was an accom- 
plishment, and that every girl ought to acquire 
it" 

The artist smiled. " She was a wise woman, 
though I cannot altogether agree with her. 
Most generalisations have some vulnerable 
point. Happiness is a gift as well as an 



A NEW FRIEND. 69 

accomplishment You may throw it away or 
you may increase it by culture. It is your good 
fortune to be thus endowed. You may suffer, 
as we all have to do, but you won't hang the 
world in black on that account. You are bora 
to recover from calamities. Do you see this 
sketch ? " 

He turned a canvas which had been placed 
on an easel with its face to the wall. 

It was an unfinished portrait of a girl 
scarcely more than Hilary's age, a girl with a 
small oval face, red lips parted in a frank, sweet 
smile, and dark eyes sparkling from a tangle of 
red-gold hair. 

" It will never be finished," he said regret- 
fully. "It was painted two years ago, and I 
hoped to exhibit it. But troubles came to my 
little friend and she lost interest in life. Now, 
you would have ridden on the top of the waves 
which drowned all the brightness Aglae 
possessed. If anyone saw that picture now 
they would pass it by as a sketch which merely 
resembled slightly the Aglae of to-day. 
Happiness, you see, is a question of will and 
temperament as well as of acquirement." 

" I am afraid you do not know me very well 
yet, Cousin Paul," Hilary said quickly. "Un- 



70 MRS. PEDERSON s NIECE. 

bridled cheerfulness is not easy even to me. It 
would be nice to be made of material warranted 
not to fret, but I have hours when it does not 
seem possible to be bright or to laugh at 
things." 

" My dear child, I know," the old man said 
quietly. "But I agree with that old governess 
of yours in this your capacity for joy is of 
the growing sort. It will increase amazingly 
with effort 

"Take Joy home 

And make a place in thy great heart for her, 
Then will she come and oft will sing to thee 
When thou art working in the furrows ay, 
It is a comely fashion to be glad." 

Hilary looked up with shining eyes. "Yes, 
I have always loved those lines of Miss 
Ingelow's. I know it is 'a comely fashion to 
be glad,' but it is not always easy to be in 
the fashion." She hesitated, and glanced shyly 
at her companion. 

"Will you let me come and see you some- 
times, Cousin Paul, when I feel myself getting 
frumpy ? I could cycle down, you know, if I 
were sure you would not think me intrusive." 

"My dear child, come as often and when 
you like. If I am not in the mood for visitors 




"'It will never be finished,' he said regretfully" (p. 69). 



A NEW FRIEND. 71 

I shall just tell you so and let you amuse 
yourself as you please. I think you and I 
are going to be great friends, though I 
belong to a past generation, and the young 
of to-day are rather incomprehensible to 
their elders." 

Hilary laughed. "I have not the reputa- 
tion for being cryptic, Cousin Paul, I assure 
you." 

It was at this juncture that Mrs. Pederson 
appeared. 

"I hope you two are not quarrelling," she 
cried banteringly. "You remember that we 
could not be left together five minutes, Paul, 
in our young days, without coming to wordy 
warfare. I have got the recipe I wanted, 
and your housekeeper is a treasure. Mind you 
don't quarrel with her and incite her to leave 
you. It is an awful mistake to offend 
decent servants. I endure untold impertin- 
ences from Mantle because she is such a 
good soul." 

She helped herself to tea and poured out 
some for her cousin and Hilary, talking so 
fast all the time that she did not hear the 
artist's protest that he took neither sugar 
nor cream. 



72 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

A few minutes later the carriage was 
announced, and she haled Hilary away in a 
bustle of good-byes and promises to "come 
again," which scarcely called forth profound 
gratitude from her host. 

"My dear Hilary, what did you and Paul 
find to talk about all that time ? " she said, as 
she sank back breathless in the carriage. " I was 
pitying you dreadfully, but that good creature, 
Murdoch, had so much to tell me about the 
smart people who come to see Paul that I 
could not tear myself away. I had no idea 
he was such a big man in the artistic world. 
I never could see anything in his pictures my- 
self. Give me something with a story in it, 
not a splash of faded colours that look as 
though the brush had done it without human 
aid. Whatever does he aim at in his paint- 
ing?" 

Hilary made a valiant effort to explain, but 
her observations fell on deaf ears. It was a 
provoking habit of Mrs. Pederson's to express 
curiosity about things she had not the faintest 
interest in when they were explained to her. 
She broke in ruthlessly on Hilary's well-meant 
attempt to be lucid. 

" Yes, dear, I see, though I'm not clever 



A NEW FRIEND. 73 

enough to like it all. But now tell me what 
you think of Paul. I could tell you were 
taken with him, and it seems that he is 
quite a person to cultivate, though I say 
it as shouldn't, being his relative. We 
will go down to Sydenham oftener this 
summer." 

Hilary did not reply. It seemed to her in 
the worst taste to be discussing one's host as 
soon as he was out of sight and hearing, even 
if he were a relative. 

" I never like to pronounce an opinion after 
such a short acquaintance," she said senten- 
tiously. 

" Gracious ! you ought to be fifty, you are 
so cautious, my dear 1 " laughed Mrs. Pederson. 
"I don't pretend to be a person of great 
acumen, but I can sum up anyone at a glance. 
It does not take me two minutes to discover 
whether a man is clever and a perfect gentle- 
man." 

Hilary winced. Mrs. Pederson's habit of 
summing up her acquaintances as " perfect 
gentlemen" or "perfect ladies" always jarred 
upon her. Her own category did not include 
imperfect specimens of the type. She told 
herself, howey.er, that it was altogether 



74 Mxs. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

absurd to take exception to Aunt Sophie's 
phrases. She meant nothing derogatory, and it 
was only fair to accept her motives as the 
standard of one's judgment of her. 

"I enjoyed myself immensely," she said 
good-temperedly. " I'm ever so much obliged 
to you for taking me, Aunt Sophie." 

"Well, it is something to be thankful for 
that one of my friends comes up to your 
standard," Mrs. Pederson replied, with a shrug 
of the shoulders. " It isn't often they do, if 
you told the honest truth." 

She had not found the outing suffi- 
ciently exciting to make her loquacious, and 
soon dropped asleep in her corner. Hilary was 
quite content to be silent, though not for the 
same reason. The great want in her life since 
she left Paris had been someone to confide in, 
someone who could sympathise with her girlish 
aspirations. Madame Brun, despite her white 
hairs and her wrinkled cheeks, was a girl at heart, 
and had been confidante, counsellor and friend 
to her favourite. Hilary soon learned that she 
must not look to Aunt Sophie for the like help 
and sympathy in any but the most material 
needs. Frances might have been a comrade, 
but she had neither interest nor attention for 



A NEW FRIEND. 75 

anything outside her own work. To-day 
Hilary felt that she had made a friend 
and that she would never again feel quite 
alone. 



CHAPTER VI. 

AN UNEXPECTED MEETING. 

FRANCES came round to Markham Square next 
day after luncheon. Mrs. Pederson had gone 
on a shopping expedition from which Hilary 
had excused herself on account of the heat 

"It's too hot to spend hours in a jostling 
crowd, buying things for which you have no 
earthly use," she said. " I'm sure it was good of 
Aunt Sophie to excuse me with such good grace, 
for she hates going alone." 

"It will be cooler in an hour," Frances said, 
taking possession of her mother's armchair. " I 
have managed to get a leisure afternoon, and I 
want you to come down to Herne Hill with 
me to see Mona Smith. She has not been at 
the hospital for a couple of days, and wild 
horses would not keep her away if she were 
not too ill to come." 

"I should like to, though I don't know 
what Aunt Sophie will say if she comes home 
and finds me away," Hilary replied dubiously. 

"We shall be back in time for dinner," 



AN UNEXPECTED MEETING. 77 

Frances said coolly. " I could not possibly 
stay longer, for Ursula and I have some work 
to do this evening. If I don't take care Ursula 
will beat me all along the line. She is splendid 
at some things. She does not work half as 
hard as I do but she will walk through the 
exams, with a smile." 

" Aren't you too anxious, Francie ? " Hilary 
said quickly. "You are too hard on yourself; 
you don't give your poor brain a chance of 
resting. Wouldn't it be better to forget the 
work now and then as Ursula does ? " 

" Forget ! You little silly ! how can people 
forget the only thing in the world that they 
really care for ? " Frances shrugged her shoulders 
with an affectation of boredom which her 
flashing eyes and quivering lips belied. "You 
don't know all that hangs on this exam. 
I shall never have nerve to try again. Some 
students go up time after time, but I'm not 
made that way. If I fail, I shall throw 
the whole business up ; and then where 
am I ? What am I going to do with my 
life?" 

Hilary frowned. "But why should you 
throw it up because you don't pass ? You can 
try again as you say other girls do." 



78 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

Frances moved her head to and fro on the 
cushion of her chair restlessly. 

" Of course, you don't understand, and I could 
never make you," she said. "If I fail I shall 
never have nerve to try again. I lie awake at 
nights and think of what will become of me if 
I don't get through, till I feel as though I shall 
go out of my mind. Of course, that way mad- 
ness lies, but I can't help it." 

Hilary looked anxiously at her cousin's thin, 
worried face. She was years younger than 
Frances, but just now she felt immeasurably older 
and wiser. She knew with certainty that all 
this fever and anxiety were laying the founda- 
tion for the failure Frances dreaded. 

" Oh, if you would not worry so much 1 " 
she sighed. "You are so clever, and you work 
so hard, Francie, that you are sure to pass. 
Promise me that you will rest more and think 
less about the work." 

"Let me alone this afternoon, Hilary, 
please," Frances replied, almost angrily ; " I 
am all jarred and out of humour. I made a 
mess of a dissection this morning through 
forgetting a mere rudiment that a beginner 
should have known. Don't mention the 
Jaospital to me to-day, though I shall have to 



AN UNEXPECTED MEETING. 79 

talk to Mona Smith about it. Thank goodness ! 
here comes Mantle with some tea. Pour me 
out a cup and tell me what you have been 
doing lately. Remember, I have not seen you 
for a fortnight, time enough for thrilling 
episodes." 

Hilary laughed as she handed Frances her 
cup. 

"Events are about as plentiful as your visits, 
but yesterday was a red-letter day. We went 
out to Sydenham to see Cousin Paul. I'm 
inclined to quarrel with you, Frances, for 
keeping his existence a secret so long. He is 
quite the nicest person I have seen since I left 
Madame Brun." 

" How flattering to mother and me," laughed 
Frances. "But the truth is, that Cousin Paul 
and I do not get on together, and in that case 
wisdom lies in mutual and amicable forgetfulness. 
He is as old-fashioned as the Major was, and 
my choice of a profession raised an impassable 
barrier between us. I used to spend a lot of 
time once at Cousin Paul's. When the atmo- 
sphere at home got electrical I always ran 
away to Sydenham, and if I had shown the 
least talent for art he would have adopted me. 
As it is, I disappointed him. I'm glad you have 



8o MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

made friends with him, Hilary," she went on in 
a softened tone ; " there's no one on earth I 
reverence more than Cousin Paul, and if ever 
I wanted a friend, which God forfend, I would 
go to him first and abide by his counsel." 

"Yes, I feel that already," Hilary replied 
quickly. " I know what you mean by his 
being old-fashioned, and I think that is what 
makes him different to other men one meets. 
He does not like to think of a girl working for 
her living, shoulder to shoulder with men, 
though so many must do it. He believes that 
some man should work for her, and that if she 
is in any trouble it is a man's part to protect her. 
It may be old-fashioned, but it is a nice thing 
to have at the back of one's mind, particularly 
when one knows that all men have not the same 
ideas." She was thinking of Olivers Smith and 
the different impression he had made on her 
mind. It was his opinion that a woman must 
take care of herself, and that if she be a little 
more foolish and careless than others, she 
must expect to be the prey of the more clever 
and wary. 

The two girls took an omnibus to Victoria 
Station, and in less than an hour found them- 
selves at Herne Hill. 



AN UNEXPECTED MEETING. 81 

Mona Smith lived in a road ot small, semi- 
detached houses, climbing ?a suburban street not 
far from the station, somewhat pretentiously 
named Jamaican Avenue. The house itself was 
neither better nor worse than its neighbours, 
but it lacked the individual touch of colour and 
decoration which lifted many from an aspect of 
dreariness. The blinds were drawn up askew, 
and dark curtains at the windows bespoke a 
desire, at all costs, to avoid labour. 

"It looks dingy, but the Smiths do not 
bother about household affairs," said Frances, 
as she opened the gate. "They are all at work 
except the children, who have not left school. 
There's an elder son, but he comes home so 
seldom that he never seems to be reckoned as 
one or the family. By the way, we seem to 
have hit on one 01 these festive occasions, for 
here he is." 

Hilary looked along the tiled path, and her 
face flushed with surprise and annoyance. That, 
among the great family of Smiths with its 
innumerable branches, Frances' student friend 
and her aunt's " man of business " should belong 
to the same had never occurred to her. It 
was Chivers Smith, who came down the path, 
lifting his hat to the girls. Hilary passed him 



82 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE, 

with a chilling bow and followed Frances to 
the door. 

A diminutive servant ushered the girls un- 
announced into an untidy front - parlour, which 
seemed to Hilary unpleasantly crowded and hot 
to suffocation. The crowd resolved itself into 
five persons : a stout, elderly woman, sitting in 
a low chair, reading a halfpenny paper; two 
schoolgirls with lank hair hanging about cross, 
tired faces ; a sharp-featured, freckled little boy, 
catching flies on the unshaded window-pane ; 
and the invalid, who sat huddled in a corner 
of the sofa, a heavy volume of physiology 
propped against her knees. 

She got up and greeted the newcomers 
languidly, introduced them to the assembled 
family, and explained that her ailment was no- 
thing more interesting or romantic than a cold 
in the head. 

"It's awfully good of you to spare the 
time to look me up, Miss Kemsing. I know 
you are tremendously busy. I'm doing all I 
can at home, but it seems a horrible waste of 
time to be ill just now. Mother, it would be nice 
of you if you would bestir yourself to get some 
tea for Miss Kemsing and her friend. It is no 
use asking Dagmar or Betty to go and urge 



AN UNEXPECTED MEETING. 83 

Martha on, they always succeed in making her 
more slow and stupid than nature intended her 
to be. I envy you sometimes, Miss Kemsing, 
living in lodgings and being free from domestic 
worries." 

" You know that you don't envy me at all in 
your heart, my dear Mona," said Frances, with 
a cheerfulness which she firmly believed was 
the best clinical manner. "You have a cold 
and are out of sorts. When you are well, 
you think mine a wretchedly uncomfortable 
existence. Please don't disturb yourself, Mrs. 
Smith. We cannot stay long, and we would 
not for worlds forestall your regular hour for 
tea." 

" It's no trouble at all, my dear," responded 
Mrs. Smith graciously. "We are plain folks, 
but we're hospitable. I'm only sorry Smith 
won't be home, for he is keen to see any of 
Mona's grand hospital friends. Anyhow, Chivers, 
my eldest son, happens to be home to-day, 
and he'll do the honours. I shouldn't wonder 
if he brings in a bit of ham or something for 
tea. There's a cookshop close to the post- 
office where he has gone with his letters, and 
he always likes a nice tea and an early one. 
Chivers is quite the gentleman," she explained 



84 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

confidentially. " He dines late, so naturally 
he prefers an early cup of tea." 

She went away on household cares intent, 
blissfully unconscious that Mona was inwardly 
raging at her revelations. Mona did not mind 
a whit the poorness or plainness of her home, 
but since her life had brought her into contact 
with Frances Kemsing, Ursula Grantham, 
and many like them, she had grown ashamed 
of its disorder and vulgarity. Unfortunately, her 
revolt as yet took no other form than an oc- 
casional and captious fault-finding, which did no 
good but merely vexed her relatives. 

She put her domestic trials aside now and 
eagerly questioned Frances about the lectures 
she had missed through her absence from the 
hospital. Hilary, who had no part or lot in 
such matters, turned to the two schoolgirls, 
who were staring at her with manifest interest. 
They knew that nearly all her life had 
been spent with Madame Brun, and were 
anxious to hear all she could tell them about 
her schooldays. 

" Of course, Gertrude tells us things, but if 
you are a governess you cannot see things 
properly," said Betty, the elder, who was pre- 
paring for matriculation and hoped to go to 



AN UNEXPECTED MEETING. 85 

Paris as soon as the examination was over. 
"They don't know half the fun that goes on, 
and wouldn't understand it if they did. Ger- 
trude and Mona lost all their 'go' when they 
took up a profession, but Dagmar and I don't 
,mean to follow their example in that respect. 
We are going to work like demons, but we 
mean to have a good time all the same. 
Dag is going to Girton if she gets a scholar- 
ship, but I'm to have a couple of years at 
Madame Brun's and qualify for a first-rate 
language mistress. Madame is going to take 
me for Gertrude's services, so it won't cost poor 
old father anything. It seems rather hard on 
old Gertie, of course, but it was her proposition. 
She would not take ' No ' for an answer, though 
we all said it was not fair on her." 

"Everything that is good for one person 
hits someone else hard," Dagmar said, out of 
her deep and varied experience of genteel 
poverty. "But, Miss Pederson, is Madame 
Brun's really a nice school ? Gertrude praises it 
no end, though she says it is rather a sleepy 
place, with nothing about it to rouse one's 
ambitions." 

" I was there ten years, and there was 
not an unhappy day in them all," Hilary said, 



86 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

speaking gently, as she always did when her 
thoughts turned back to the quaint old house 
in the quiet Paris suburb. 

"Tell us everything you can remember," 
demanded Betty. 

Hilary laughed. "That's too large an order; 
I could not fulfil it if I talked till midnight." 
She was in the full tide of reminiscences when 
the door opened and the elder son of the 
house looked in. 

Chivers Smith had no illusions concerning 
his sisters. He knew they were clever and 
hardworking girls, who stood by one another 
and never lost sight of the fact that their 
futures depended on their own exertions. He 
knew also that he could, if he would, save 
them much of this grinding and worrying, but 
his affection was not of the kind which puts 
family ties before self-interest. He told himself 
that he had his own goal to reach, and that 
he had had to struggle at the beginning as 
they were doing. It had not hurt him, and it 
would do them no harm. Yet he was conscious 
of a difference in the three faces which bent 
towards one another over the centre table. 
He told himself that it was birth and breeding 
which gave Hilary's sweet, animated face some- 



AN UNEXPECTED MEETING. 87 

thing the others lacked; but he was wrong. 
She alone of the five girls lived for other 
things than her own advancement and her pet 
interests. The light of a wholesome, buoyant 
spirit shone in her tender, mirthful eyes. She 
was happy and free from all taint of depression 
because a life of self-renouncing love has always 
been a life of liberty from carking and narrowing 
cares. 

Over the tea-table, where each scrambled 
for his or her own meal, Chivers Smith en- 
deavoured, without much success, to further 
his acquaintance with Hilary and Frances, 
The elder girl had always disliked him and 
dreaded his influence upon her mother, whilst 
Hilary's recollection of their last meeting was 
too vivid for her to feel at ease in his presence. 
Both were glad when it was possible to say 
good-bye to Mona and her sisters and leave 
the house. 

"I wish we had not gone to-day," Frances 
said discontentedly, when they were in the 
train. "It is the way I am usually rewarded 
when I exercise the virtue of self-sacrifice. 
There was really nothing serious the matter 
with Mona, and I hated to have you meet 
that brother of hers, Hilary. By the way, I 



88 MRS. PEDER SON'S NIECE. 

saw that you needed no introduction to him. 
Surely mother does not inscribe him on her 
visiting list ? " 

Hilary shook her head. "No, he comes on 
business now and then, though, perhaps, I ought 
not to have mentioned it. Aunt Sophie dis- 
likes me to talk of her business affairs. He 
saw me going into No. 10 one day, and on 
the strength of that, imagined that we were ac- 
quainted. It was odious of him to try to talk 
to me about Aunt Sophie's business, but I 
suppose he did not know it was not the way in 
our world." 

" No ; perhaps not," Frances said absently, 
looking out of the window without seeing any 
of the drawbacks to the dingy little houses 
past which the train was whirling her. 

She was wondering whether she should tell 
Hilary why she disliked Chivers Smith and 
feared his influence over her mother. She re- 
membered that once he had been responsible 
for a heavy monetary loss, and that the Major had 
broken off all business connections with him in 
a summary fashion. He had also enjoined on 
Frances to keep her own little income out of 
Smith's hands. But what good could she do 
by raking up these doings in the past ? 



AN UNEXPECTED MEETING, 89 

Hilary's money was safe, and it was not likely 
that Mrs. Pederson would be guided by her 
niece in anything relating to her own affairs. 
Why cast a shadow of possible evil on the 
path Hilary was treading ? It had its diffi- 
culties already, though she trod it with radiant 
smiles and an undaunted courage. 

Frances was still debating the point when 
the train drew up at the platform at Holborn 
Viaduct station. The opportunity for warning 
Hilary was gone. It was too late now to speak. 
She said good-bye to her cousin, and went on 
her way to Skone Street with a meditative 
frown on her dark little face. 

"Well, I cannot hinder my work by bother- 
ing about other people's business," she said, 
as she put the latchkey in the lock of her 
own door. " Mother would not brook my inter- 
ference for a moment, so she and Chivers Smith 
must go their own gait. If anything seriously 
affects Hilary, she shall have a corner of my 
diggings, and glad enough I shall be to have 
her." 



CHAPTER VII. 

THE STORM BURSTS. 

SUMMER slipped into autumn, and autumn into 
winter, each with its widening interests and 
new experiences for Hilary Pederson. 

Looking back, she seemed to see a great gap 
between the girl who had said good-bye so 
hopefully to Madame Brun in the dear old 
French school and the Hilary of Markham 
Square. The months had left their mark on 
the frank, girlish face. No one would call 
Hilary a childish-looking creature for her years 
now, as Mrs. Pederson had done eight months 
before. Nothing could rob her of her buoyancy 
and her talent for finding the bright and the 
amusing side of everything that happened. The 
joyous laugh and the merry word were as 
frequent as ever; but she saw sights and heard 
stories now which would have been meaningless 
to her before, and they touched her to the heart. 
Her character had strengthened ; her mental 
and moral fibre had become finer and more 
tempered. The frank acceptance of a new phase 



THE STORM BURSTS. 91 

of life, and the nerving oneself to self-control and 
kindly endurance of much that goes against the 
grain, cannot help having a fine bracing effect 
on the whole nature. 

Hilary found herself thrown more and more 
on her own resources as the weeks slipped 
away. If, at first, she had chafed at Aunt 
Sophie's perpetual call upon her time, she could 
do so no longer. Mrs. Pederson was more 
and more engrossed in interests she did not ask 
Hilary to share, and in which it was manifest 
the girl's participation would be unwelcome. 

Hilary went often to Sydenham ; scarcely 
a week passed without her visiting the studio, 
and it was evident that Mr. Kemsing found 
her presence no hindrance to his work. He 
liked to listen to her chatter as he painted, 
and in these summer and autumn months a 
close friendship was cemented which was to be 
the girl's refuge and safeguard in the dark days 
she had, later, to face. When the waves of a 
sea of perplexities threatened to sweep over 
her, she turned confidently to the old man 
whose wisdom and tolerance she had tested in 
the days of sunshine and prosperity. 

She had other interests also above and 
beyond her friendship with Paul Kemsing. 



92 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECB. 

Since her expedition with Ursula Grantham to 
Cross Street she had been there often, some- 
times with Ursula, but more frequently alone. 

A sister of Ursula's, the widow of a London 
clergyman, had taken a small house in the i 
squalid little street, and with two or three girl, 
friends was working amongst the poor in a' 
quiet, practical way which fired Hilary's enthu- 
siasm. She would have liked to join them, and 
hinted as much to Mrs. Devon. That wise 
woman gave her little encouragement. 

" My dear, your duty lies in Markham 
Square," she said frankly. "It you ever find 
yourself without ties or friends who need you, 
we will talk about the matter. As it is, you 
have a duty to your aunt, and you could not 
expect to do any good here if you reached 
Cross Street through the gate of a neglected 
duty. Come and see us as often as you like,' 
but nothing more for the present." 

In the early spring Hilary persuaded Mrs. 
Pederson to let her pay Madame Brun a visit. 
The old French lady had been ailing all the 
winter, and pined for a sight of "her child." 

Betty Smith travelled to Paris with her. 
Dagmar had won her scholarship and gone to 
Girton, and Betty had herself been fortunate in 



THE STORM BURSTS. 93 

gaming a "Local," and was jubilant at the 
thought of being able to hand back to her 
elder sister some of the diverted salary. 

" It was hateful to think of her giving up all 
for me, so I was bound to work hard and 
try to get something," she told Hilary. "I 
shall find a good post when I leave Paris, and 
then I'll make it up to the dear old girl." 

" You are very fond of Miss Smith ? " 
Hilary said, remembering that she had once 
thought the second English mistress was 
scarcely a girl to inspire affection and that 
her own liking for her had been decidedly 
tepid. 

Betty stared. 

"She is my sister," she replied coolly. 
"It's easy to see that you have never had 
any folks of your own. Sisters always stick 
together, however much they may squabble in 
private. Some people say brothers do too, but 
I don't know anything about that. Chivers 
has never lived at home since I can remember, 
and though he might have done a lot for us, 
he has never troubled himself. We all think 
him abominably selfish, though mother sticks up 
for him, I say that he is selfish to the core, 
and I should be sorry for anyone whose 



94 MRS. PEDERSON s NIECE. 

interests clashed with his. They would certainly 
go the wall." 

Hilary looked troubled, and made haste to 
change the subject. Nevertheless, she could 
not wholly forget Betty Smith's outspoken 
criticisms, and they made her vaguely uneasy. 

Mrs. Pederson's "man of business" had 
been more often in Markham Square than ever 
of late, and Hilary could not help attributing 
her aunt's worried expression and her fitfulness 
of temper to the frequency of these visits. 

It was useless to take Frances into her 
confidence. Frances said plainly that she did 
not wish to be bothered with anyone's troubles 
and trials until her own were past. 

Hilary blamed herself because she could 
not help feeling glad to be away from Markham 
Square for a few weeks. She hated problems 
and complications, and thought with relief that 
none would vex her while she was under 
Madame Brim's roof. 

She was welcomed like a child of the house, 
and settled down into her old niche as though 
she had never left it. She had only three 
short weeks to spend in Paris, but during that 
time she meant to forget that she was no 
longer the happy, irresponsible schoolgirl. 



THE STORM BURSTS. 95 

Madame Brun soon knew all there was to 
tell about her darling's life in London, and 
guessed much that Hilary did not put into 
words. It was not the life she would have 
chosen for her but she had faith in the girl's 
power to walk amidst its dangers and tempta- 
tions, and to resist its tendency to lower and 
limit her aspirations and ambitions. She 
believed that Hilary would be equal to all 
the claims upon her, the smallest and most 
exasperating no less than the larger and more 
impressive. 

The girl made the most of her holiday. 
She wandered about the city, with old Marie, 
Madame's factotum, as a chaperone, as she had 
not been allowed to do in former days. Though 
she had crept into her old place in the house, 
Madame did not forget that she was no longer 
the schoolgirl, and gave her a liberty she had 
not enjoyed before. Sometimes she sat for 
hours in the window of the little room, which 
had been given up again to her use, the little 
room which had always been a haven of peace, 
the quietest nook in the busy house. Here all 
her battles had been fought, all her vexations 
adjusted to the line of life, all her joys tasted 
to the full. The old life had never seemed 



96 MRS. PEDERSON'S NJECB. 

so sweet and wholesome as it did when Hilary 
sat dreamily looking down into the old-fashioned 
garden. 

Nature had not yet awakened from her 
winter sleep, and the garden was bare and 
brown. In another month it would don its 
garment of spring greenery, and look much as 
it had done on the day the girl said good-bye 
to it. She sighed a little as she recalled the 
small, dull garden in the square, with its groups 
of stunted shrubs which so soon lost their 
freshness. The fascination ol our great city had 
not yet touched Hilary. She regarded it still 
with the eyes of a country-bred girl, and had 
no one to show her its historical interest, its 
peculiar charm and its secret beauty. 

Years after, one who would never see again 
what he revealed to Hilary, lifted the veil for 
her, and she saw the most wonderful city in 
the world with different eyes. In her girlish 
ignorance she had pronounced it cruel, ugly, and 
dismal; he taught her to dream of ancient 
days in the cloisters of the Abbey, or in the 
seclusion of hidden courts and inns; to wander 
in historic places, to watch for wonders of 
light and shade on the riverside houses, and to 
love the great waterway with its burden of 



THE STORM BURSTS. 97 

mysterious freight. These things were still un- 
known to Hilary, and she compared Paris to 
her native city with scant appreciation of the 
latter. 

A letter from Markham Square suddenly 
cut Hilary's holiday short. 

Miss Smith was the bearer of the undesired 
missive. She brought it into Hilary's room one 
morning as the girl was putting on her hat and 
coat to accompany Marie on a marketing 
expedition. 

"A letter for you, Hilary," she said, tossing 
it on the table and turning away. 

Miss Smith had shown little friendship for 
Hilary since she came to Paris and was 
manifestly jealous of Betty's violent attachment 
to her. 

Hilary took up the letter and glanced at 
the address. It was written in a laboured, un- 
formed hand which recalled none of her few 
acquaintances in London. She broke the 
envelope and drew out its contents. 

The epistle proved to be from Mantle, and 
Hilary's face grew grave as she read. Then she 
laid the sheets on her knee and considered the 
news they contained. 

Mrs. Pederson was ill, "clean demented" 



98 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECB. 

was the maid's description of her mistress's 
condition, and though it seemed absolutely 
essential she should see a doctor, she refused to 
have one called in. All the servants except 
Mantle had been sent away, and Mrs. Pederson 
had taken to her bed, forbidding anyone to 
send for Frances or let her know what was 
happening. 

"It is evident that poor Mantle is at her 
wit's end and must have some help," Hilary 
said aloud, as she went downstairs to find 
Madame Brun. "She does not like to ask me 
to come home, but it is what she really wants 
me to do." 

Madame looked grave when Hilary explained 
the situation. 

"It seems a pity to shorten your holiday, 
chtrie, but I think you ought to go," she said. 
" Let us hope you will find things not so bad 
as that alarming letter would lead one to fear. 
The poor maid is evidently greatly overwrought. ' 

Hilary nodded. "And that is so unlike 
Mantle. Under the most exciting circumstances 
she usually shows as much emotion as the 
Rock of Gibraltar. Yes, I must certainly go 
to the rescue as quickly as train and steamer 
will take me. " 



THE STORM BURSTS. 99 

Hilary reached Dover at daybreak, took 
the next train to town, and drove straight to 
Markham Square. The dull rows of houses, 
which never rose to the day's duties with any 
demonstration of haste, were still shuttered 
as the girl ran up the familiar steps of No. 10 
and rang the bell. 

Mantle was astir, for she could be heard, 
without any delay, crossing the hall and 
fumbling at the lock of the entrance-door. 

" Good gracious ! Miss Hilary, what a 
time of day for you to be out ; and I'll be 
bound you have been travelling all night 1 " 
she cried. "I'm right glad to see you, though. 
Come in, and I'll get you some breakfast at 
once." 

Hilary laughed. "I travelled all night and 
I own to being famished," she said, as she 
opened the door of the dining-room. The 
blinds had been drawn up, and in the chill 
morning light she could see the dust lying thick 
on the furniture. Everything wore that look 
of forlornness an apartment always takes on 
when it has not been used for days. In the 
grate there were still the cinders of a 
dead fire, and a litter of torn paper lay in 
the fender. 



ioo MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECB. 

" How dreary arid depressing 1 " she cried, 
shivering. " I'll come down to the kitchen and 
have my breakfast by your fire, Mantle. I 
shall get the blues if I stay up here by myself. 
Whilst you are boiling the kettle you can tell 
me about Aunt Sophie's illness. Your letter ' 
alarmed me awfully." 

"You won't find the place fit to sit down 
in, Miss Hilary," Mantle said, leading the way 
to the basement. "I have had my hands too 
full to keep any one spot clean and neat as 
the mistress likes it. But there, she can blame 
no one but herself. She it was sent off Eliza 
and cook at a moment's notice, and without 
giving a word of reason 1 " Mantle tossed her 
head, and swept to and fro with worry and 
indignation in every line of her angular figure. 

"What do you think really ails Aunt 
Sophie ? " Hilary asked anxiously. 

Mantle paused in the act of lifting the 
kettle from the fire and looked at the girl 
significantly. , 

" If you ask my candid opinion, knowing 
mistress as well as anyone can know her, 
and in strict confidence between you and 
me, Miss Hilary, there ain't anything the 
matter with her at all. She's just sulking. 



THE STORM BURSTS. 101 

Somebody has done her an injury, and she is 
sick with vexation. All she'll say is that she's 
a badly injured woman, and there's them as 
ought to be punished for what they've brought 
on her, but ask her a question I dare not. She 
gets heaps of letters, but she tosses them un- 
opened into the grate. You'll see a pile of 
them when you go up, for she won't have 
them touched. Maybe she will tell you all 
about it, though it's plain she isn't going to let 
Miss Frances know anything." 

At this point Mrs. Pederson's voice was 
heard calling shrilly for Mantle, and demanding 
to know who was in the house and why her 
chocolate was delayed. 

"Pour it out, Mantle, and I will carry it 
up," Hilary said. "She will be so surprised to 
see me that she may tell me her troubles on. 
the spur of the moment." 

" I wish she may," Mantle responded grimly. 
"For a lady with a tongue as long as the 
mistress, she can keep a secret uncommonly 
well when she likes." 

Hilary threw off her hat and coat and 
made her way upstairs with the little tray 
Mantle had prepared. 

There was no mistaking Mrs. Pederson's 



IO2 MRS. PEDER SON'S NIECE. 

surprise when Hilary opened the door and 
stepped into the room. She lifted herself upon 
her elbow and stared at her with astonishment 
not unmixed with annoyance. 

" So it was your cab that I heard ! " she 
exclaimed sharply. "What has brought you 
back in this hurry ? Have you quarrelled with 
your wonderful Madame Bran, or has she tired 
of you?" 

"Neither," said Hilary, laughing. "But it 
was clearly time I returned. You have taken 
wretched care of yourself, Aunt Sophie, and 
need someone to look after you. I am going 
to nurse you back to health. Mantle says 
you have not been out of your room for ten 
days." 

"Mantle always chatters," grumbled the 
invalid, settling herself back on her pillows and 
occupying herself with the tray Hilary placed 
before her. She had aged wonderfully in the 
three weeks since Hilary had left her. There 
were fresh lines on her forehead and about her 
mouth, and her eyes had a tired, worried 
expression. Now and then she cast a keen, 
suspicious glance at her niece, as though she 
would have liked to ask how much Mantle 
had told her, and what she knew of the 



THE STORM BURSTS. 103 

circumstances it had been Mrs. Pederson's 
endeavour hitherto to conceal. 

"Now, tell me what brought you back, 
Hilary," she said at length. 

Hilary hesitated. "I heard that you were 
ill, Aunt Sophie/' she said gently. 

Mrs. Pederson frowned. " That was 
meddling Mantle ! She shall leave as soon as 
I get about again. There is nothing the matter 
with me, Hilary nothing." 

"My dear aunt, what an incomprehensible 
statement when I find you in bed and hear you 
have not left it for ten days ! " Hilary replied 
with the ghost of a smile. " You cannot expect 
me to think you are well." 

Mrs. Pederson laughed hysterically, and 
then burst into a storm of sobs and tears. 

" Yes, I am ill, ill in mind if not in body," 
she gasped. " I'm a ruined woman, Hilary ruined, 
robbed, without a penny in the world. I have 
lost everything, so that swindler tells me, 
though he may be lying about that as he has 
done about everything else." 

Hilary looked startled. " I don't understand, 
Aunt Sophie." 

Mrs. Pederson moved irritably on the 
pillows. 



IO4 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

"Gracious! Surely I am lucid enough. It 
does not take much sense to grasp the fact that 
when you have lost all your money you are just 
ruined, and that there is nothing but the work- 
house for you. These lawyers ought to be 
punished when they deceive poor widows with 
their lying reports and their grand promises. 
What is the use of a man of business if you 
cannot trust him and follow his advice in the 
investing of your money ? " 

"Oh, Aunt Sophie, has Chivers Smith done 
this ? " exclaimed Hilary. " Frances was 
always afraid of him." 

"Yes, and you were never a friend to him 
either. You can both laugh finely at me now. 
It will be a joke that will last you a lifetime. 
But go away and send Mantle to me. It 
worries me to have you sit there, looking as 
though I were a lost soul because I happen to 
have made some unlucky investments, and 
trusted a man who turns out to be a mere 
swindler." 

Hilary got up and went away, feeling 
helpless in a crisis in which she had no past 
experience to guide her. She wandered about 
the house in a state of conscious and miserable 
superfluousness, until she made up her mind 



THE STORM BURSTS. 105 

to write later in the day to Mr. Kemsing and 
beg him to come and see Aunt Sophie. Now 
she would go and find Frances. The student 
might be too much taken up with her work for 
ordinary calls upon her, but this was something 
she ought to know and to which it was 
essential she should give her help and advice. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

FRANCES REFUSES TO INTERFERE. 

FRANCES had not returned from the hospital 
when Hilary reached Skone Street. Knowing 
that it was a little before her usual time, 
Hilary sat down to wait for her. She came 
in about twenty minutes later, looking cross 
and tired, though her face brightened when she 
caught sight of her visitor. 

"My dear Hilary, I thought you were in 
Paris 1 " she exclaimed, tossing an armful of 
books on the table and shaking hands in her 
usual boyish fashion. " Ursula has gone to 
Brighton for a couple of days, so I expected 
to find an empty room." 

She threw herself full length on the lounge 
and stretched her arms with a wearied gesture. 
The sun from the unshaded window fell full 
on her small, dark face, and Hilary saw that 
it was thinner and whiter, and that there were 
purple lines under the restless eyes. 

" I'm getting on awfully well with my lec- 
tures just now," Frances went on, in a quick, 



FRANCES REFUSES TO INTERFERE. 107 

excited way. "You are not a student, Hilary, 
or you would know how glorious it feels to 
be in thorough working trim, to be able to 
grasp things easily, to feel you are just all 
brain and nothing is too difficult for you to tackle. 
I hate to seem cocksure, but there does not seem 
the least reason why I should not do splendidly 
in the finals, even if I don't take honours. 
In another six months you will be able to 
congratulate me on being thoroughly qualified, 
I hope." 

Hilary regarded her seriously. 

"I am glad you are so happy in your work, 
Francie, though you look awfully strained. I 
hate to worry you about other things." 

"Do not do it, I beg," Frances said, 
emphatically. "I warn you that I have 
not a figment of interest in anyone but 
myself, and an earthquake would only 
seem a temporary disarrangement of my be- 
longings." 

"But you must detach yourself a little," 
urged Hilary. "Aunt Sophie is ill, Frances." 

" Send for a doctor, my dear ; I am not 
qualified to practise yet, however much I may 
know of disease theoretically." 

"Please be serious, Frances. I want you to 



io8 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

come to Markham Square. Aunt Sophie is ill 
in mind and body, and I cannot bear all the 
burden of her trouble. It is heavy, I am sure, 
and I believe it is a money trouble." 

Frances sat up, and her black brows met in 
a frown. 

"A money trouble ! What on earth do you 
mean, Hilary ? " 

Hilary hesitated. "From what Aunt Sophie 
says, she has lost everything. She has made 
bad investments, and accuses Chivers Smith of 
ruining her." 

" That's sheer nonsense. She has nine hundred 
a year in her own right. She would never 
touch the capital, though, of course, she has the 
power to do so." 

She crossed the room, and, with one hand 
on the mantelshelf, stood looking down into the 
empty grate. 

Though she denied the possibility of her 
mother's being ruined with nine hundred a year 
at her back, she did not feel so confident of 
her solvency. Ever since she could remember, 
her mother's passion for dabbling in speculation 
had been a source of danger and of family dis- 
cord. When the Major was alive he had held 
the reins tightly, and Frances knew that his 



FRANCES REFUSES TO INTERFERE. 109 

legacy to Hilary, with its condition, had really 
been one of his plans for safeguarding his 
wife from actually beggaring herself. If all 
else went, there was still a little she could 
neither squander nor throw away in wild 
speculation. 

" If the worst comes to the worst, you have 
your own income, Hilary," said Frances in a 
hard tone. "Every family has its skeleton in 
the cupboard, I suppose. I wonder if you have 
guessed that ours is the mater's mania for dabbling 
in stocks and shares and business of which she 
knows as much as you or I do. All the women 
of our family are born gamblers. My grand- 
mother has told me that when she was a girl 
she regularly doubled or lost her income the 
day after she received it. Card-playing was 
the fashionable vice in her day, you know. 
Mother has few opportunities for indulging in 
that direction, and in her the passion takes the 
form of dabbling in speculation, with Chivers 
Smith to egg her on. Sometimes I have thought 
my own keenness for work was only the spirit 
of gambling in disguise. I don't care about the 
future as Ursula does ; I scarcely ever think 
of it To me success in the exams, is the goal 
I would sell the gown off my back, de- 



no MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

nounce my dearest friend, or risk life itself to 
win." 

Hilary listened with a bewildered expression 
on her young face. She knew so little of life, 
and nothing of its seamy side. What had 
been mysterious and alien in her life at 
No. 10 she had resolutely put from her, 
refusing to dwell on what she could not 
understand. 

There flashed before her mind, as she listened 
to Frances, a remembrance of Mrs. Pederson's 
passion for cards, her shrill excitement over 
the most childish games, her eagerness when 
the stakes were merely chocolates. That, 
then, was the stuff of which gamblers were 
made : she knew now why it had always 
repelled her. 

"I can't believe it," she said slowly. 

Frances shrugged her shoulders. "Disbelief 
does not alter facts," she said coolly. 

"I have written to Cousin Paul to come 
and see Aunt Sophie," Hilary said. 

Frances nodded. "You could not do better 
than follow his advice, though he is the most 
unworldly-wise of men. Let me know what 
he thinks of the business, and what mother is 
going to do." 



FRANCES REFUSES TO INTERFERE. in 

"But, Frances, you are coming to Markham 
Square to see her ? " 

" My good child, how can you ask me ? I 
can't mix myself up in the business. I have 
not time or attention to give at this stage. 
Mother must get out of her own muddles : 
if she had taken my advice she would never 
have got into them. You are all right, for 
your ninety pounds is safely invested and no 
one can touch it. You had better come and 
live with me." 

" It is only mine so long as I live with 
Aunt Sophie," Hilary said thoughtfully. 

"Of course, I forgot," exclaimed Frances. 
"That was the Major's last effort to protect 
poor mother from herself. It is rather hard on 
you, Hilary, but it relieves me a good deal. 
You are bound to stay with mother, and I can 
trust you to look after her. I must say it 
would have been annoying if you had taken 
your money and gone off to Paris, though it 
is what I should have done myself, I dare- 
say." 

Hilary looked at her cousin curiously. She 
felt that whatever help and sympathy she 
and Aunt Sophie needed, they must not look 
to Frances to give it. Self had gradually 



112 MRS. P ED ER SON'S NlECB. 

wrapped the girl about till it was beyond her 
power to care much for others. She could not 
give even a casual and perfunctory attention 
to any claims outside the radius of self- 
interest. 

"But won't you come home with me now 
and see Aunt Sophie ? " Hilary said wist- 
fully. 

Frances bent over her books and the colour 
dyed her cheeks. 

"No, better not," she said, with an odd 
roughness in her voice. "She would not care 
to see me. I should only rub her up the 
wrong way." 

" Oh, Francie, when she is in trouble ! Your 
own mother 1 " 

Hilary's eyes shone and her lip quivered. 
She could not recollect her own mother, and 
had only the merest scraps of knowledge con- 
cerning her, but she could imagine no claim of 
work or intellect, no depth of estrangement, 
which would have kept her from her side in 
sickness and trouble. When clouds gathered, 
it was surely the time to strengthen and draw 
closer the ties of blood and affection. 

Prances was staring out on the forest of 
chimneys outlined against the grey March sky. 



FRANCES REFUSES TO INTERFERE. 113 

She felt sore and angry : with Hilary, because 
she saw that the younger girl was judging her 
by her own altruistic standard; with her 
mother, that she should have brought this dis- 
turbing element into her life ; with herself, for 
a score of reasons she preferred not to define 
too accurately. 

The opinion of others had never weighed 
much with Frances Kemsing. She had prided 
herself on being a law unto herself and beat- 
ing out her own path in life. Now she was 
conscious of a sense of irritation at being 
weighed in someone's balance and found want- 
ing. Judged by Hilary's standard, she was 
marked "tekel," found lacking. 

Yet how impossible to explain to Hilary 
the gradual estrangement which made it im- 
possible for her to feel that her mother either 
needed or desired her presence at this crisis 
in her fortunes. Relationship is a great oppor- 
tunity for affection, not a compelling force. 
From the first, neither Mrs. Pederson nor 
Frances had cultivated that natural affection 
which exists in a child's earliest years. Little 
differences had been the germ of endless 
bickerings, and Self had been allowed to intrude 
perpetually. Frances, from the time she came 



114 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECB. 

back, a girl of sixteen, from a German school, 
had never been particularly dear to her 
mother. She came as a disturbing element in 
a life which had been long regulated with- 
out regard to her existence. She was difficult 
to manage, wilful, and opinionated. She was 
unmistakably clever, but when Mrs. Pederson 
heard that brilliant things might be expected 
of her, she metaphorically wrung her hands. 
She disliked clever women. They never married, 
and they always made her feel at a dis- 
advantage. She was good-hearted, however, and 
fond of the girl in her own way. She received 
her with open arms and determined to make 
the best of her. 

Frances, certainly, did nothing to make this 
easy for her mother. She had a sharp tongue 
and liked to say biting things; she had, more- 
over, keen eyes, and every detail of her mother's 
daily doings passed through the crucible of her 
merciless criticism. Looking back in after years, 
Frances confessed that she must have been 
difficult to deal with, and singularly trying to 
a woman of Mrs. Pederson's character and 
temperament. She could readily believe that, 
when she announced her determination to 
become a lady doctor and took herself and 



FRANCES REFUSES TO INTERFERE. 115 

her belongings to Skone Street, her mother's 
lamentations were tempered by a sense of 
relief. Since that day, mother and daughter 
had seen little of each other, and though the 
estrangement remained, the bitterness had almost 
died out of the hearts of both. Frances, 
at this moment, wished heartily that she could 
go to her mother, sure that her presence would 
be welcome and her help desired. Yet no 
one knew better that you cannot tear down 
in a moment what years have laboriously 
built up. 

"I'll come if I can by-and-bye, Hilary," she 
said, over her shoulder. "You may tell mother 
so if she inquires." 

Early next morning, in response to Hilary's 
letter, Mr. Kemsing came to Markham Square. 

Hilary was watering the ferns in the 
drawing-room when he was announced, and she 
came forward to greet him with a grateful 
smile. 

"How good of you to come so soon, 
Cousin Paul I " she said, holding out her hands. 
"I will go and tell Aunt Sophie you are 
here." 

"No, wait a bit T \ want to hear all you 
know of tin's, troublesome business first," Mr. 



u6 MRS. PEDERSON' s NIECE. 

Kemsing said. "I never can make head or tail 
of Sophie's incoherent stories." 

Hilary told him all she had gathered from 
Frances and Mantle, and the sum total agreed 
exactly with what the artist knew of the past. 

"The best thing for me to do will be to 
go into the City and see this man to whom 
Sophie attributes her losses," he said thought- 
fully. "Then I shall know exactly how 
matters stand and be better able to advise your 
aunt. You can tell her I will join her at 
dinner." 

When he returned a few hours later, look- 
ing tired and worried, Hilary was alone in the 
library. Mrs. Pederson refused absolutely to see 
him. She was too ill to discuss business, she 
said; all she wanted was to be left alone, 
and they might manage her affairs as they 
pleased. 

In vain Hilary protested, coaxed, and en- 
treated. Mrs. Pederson decreed to keep her 
room, and her dinner was carried thither by 
the overworked and exasperated Mantle. 

Mr. Kemsing smiled inscrutably when Hilary 
apologised for her aunt's absence. 

"That was her way from a child," he said. 
"She could never be got to face a situation 



FRANCES REFUSES TO INTERFERE. 117 

which threatened to prove disagreeable. It's a 
species of weakness which never pays in the 
long run." 

Hilary nodded. She did not want Cousin 
Paul to drop into generalising as he had a 
habit of doing. She was anxious to hear the 
result of his expedition into the City. 

"Did you manage to see Olivers Smith, 
Cousin Paul ? " she asked, as he helped her 
to fish. "Are things as bad as poor Aunt 
Sophie fears?" 

Mr. Kemsing frowned, and seemed in no 
hurry to reply. His experiences that afternoon 
had not been pleasant ones, and he disliked to 
go over them even in thought. 

" Bad 1 They are as bad as they well can 
be," he said irritably. " Everything has gone, 
swallowed up in some confounded company, 
which promised such huge dividends that 
ordinary common sense ought to have warned 
people that it was a fraud. Your aunt sold 
out of fairly safe concerns and put the whole 
of her money in it. Any man of sense and 
probity would have warned her against such 
folly, but she leaned on that rogue Smith, who, 
you may be sure, has not lost a penny. 
There's her bill to him for managing the 



n8 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

business for her, a cool three hundred with his 
commission, and another couple of hundred she 
borrowed awhile ago. She couldn't keep out 
of borrowing, it seems, though her own income 
was large enough to maintain her in comfort. 
Smith, who seems to know all her business, 
says that she has not a penny to meet his 
claims with and he means to press for a settle- 
ment. Something can be got by selling the 
lease of this house and by the sale of the 
furniture, but there is the future to think of." 

Hilary listened, her eyes opened wide and 
her food untasted on her plate. 

" What will Aunt Sophie do, Cousin Paul ? " 
she said. 

"That is a question for her to settle," he 
replied, with a shrug of the shoulders. "Of 
course, she must go to Frances, who has a 
small income that no one can touch. It isn't 
much, but two women can live on very little, 
I am told." 

Hilary shook her head. " Frances has her 
work, and her money does little more than keep 
her and pay her hospital expenses." 

"Well, we must leave them to manage that 
between them. It is you I am thinking of 
just now, my dear. Pederson left you ninety 



FRANCES REFUSES TO INTERFERE. 119 

pounds a year on condition that you lived 
with Sophie. If you break that condition, the 
money lapses to her. What do you say, 
Hilary, to letting it lapse and coming to live 
at Sydenham ? It would be a bright day for 
me, child, when you became my adopted 
daughter, and it would be no loss to you from 
a pecuniary point of view. I have enough for 
us both and to spare." He looked across the 
table with a kindly smile and a manifest affection 
which touched the girl to the heart. Her eyes 
filled with tears and her lip quivered. The 
prospect the old artist held out was a tempting 
one. She knew so well what life in the quiet 
old house was like : the cultured ease, the 
companionship of clever and well-bred people, 
the influence of art and books all these would 
be part of her daily life. On the other hand 
was the limited existence which would be 
possible for her and Mrs. Pederson on ninety 
pounds a year. She was sorely tempted to 
accept Cousin Paul's offer, the more as she felt 
that Aunt Sophie would perhaps prefer it, since 
it gave her uncontrolled use of the legacy 
Hilary would give up. 

Something Frances had let drop checked 
her. The Major had left this money so guarded 



I2O MRS. P ED ER SON'S NIECE 

that it might not be in Aunt Sophie's power 
to lose it. He trusted her to the girl's care, 
and she could not be unfaithful to that trust 
though she had never desired it. 

" I can't come, though I should like it 
above everything, Cousin Paul," she said slowly. 
"I must not desert poor Aunt Sophie in her 
trouble. Please, do not be vexed or think me 
ungrateful." 

Mr. Kemsing was vexed and he did not 
conceal it. He was used to having his own 
way, and liked as little to be thwarted as Mrs. 
Pederson did. "Your aunt has no right to ex- 
pect you practically to sacrifice yourself to her, 
child, and I don't doubt she would rather have 
the ninety pounds than your company with a 
share in it. You had better come to me." 

He was fond of the bright, winsome girl, 
and was keenly anxious to spare her the life ot 
pinching poverty which lay before her. 

Yet as he strode up and down the room, 
he was bound to confess that he would have 
been disappointed if Hilary had embraced his 
offer. She would have fallen in his esteem 
if she had put Self first and left the fretful, 
disappointed woman upstairs to complete her 
own ruin. 



FRANCES REFUSES TO INTERFERE. 121 

He stopped in his walking to and fro and 
laid his hands heavily on the girl's shoulders. 

"Of course, you must have your own way, 
you foolish girl." 

Hilary laughed. "That's tantamount to 
saying that you know I am right, Cousin 
Paul." 

" I don't say yes or no," he replied testily. 
"I can see that you are going to be horridly 
uncomfortable. I have had glimpses of the 
life you will have to lead, and it baffles 
description. I would have saved you from it 
if you would have let me. If you won't leave 
Sophie, I see no other way to help you." He 
did actually see another way, but even for 
Hilary's sake he could not bring himself to 
mention it. He might have offered to both 
the shelter of his home, but he could not 
make so big a sacrifice. A man, he said, must 
have peace and quiet in his old age, and Mrs. 
Pederson's presence at The Nook would make 
work and serenity a sheer impossibility. 

"There is no other way," he repeated. 
"But remember, child, if you ever come to a 
rough place, you are to send for me. If ever 
you need money, write me a line, and I will 
sell my last curio, if need be, to get it. Promise 



122 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

to remember old Paul Kemsing if you want 
help or a home." 

Hilary promised readily enough. She knew 
that he was sincere in his desire to help her, 
and there was no one on earth to whom she 
would go so willingly. She determined, how- 
ever, that it should be only as a last resource. 
Surely she and Aunt Sophie would manage easily 
enough, without needing assistance. To Hilary, 
who had never needed to know the price of a 
meal, or gauged the cost of merely living, 
ninety pounds a year seemed a sum of enor- 
mous proportions. 



CHAPTER IX. 

A STEP DOWN IN THE WORLD. 

"I DON'T mind being poor, Aunt Sophie. It 
is not half so bad as people make out. Having 
less fashionable clothes and a more meagre table 
can't really affect one's peace of mind. We can 
be quite happy together in some quiet little 
place." Hilary delivered these sentiments with 
the air of one who had tested the hollowness 
of prosperity and yearned for the bracing at- 
mosphere of adversity. 

Mrs. Pederson regarded her with speechless 
exasperation. 

" Happy 1 living like rats in a hole ! " she 
cried impatiently. "You do not know what 
you are talking about, girl." She was still 
keeping her room, more because it gave her a 
legitimate excuse for refusing to see Chivers 
Smith when he called, than because she was 
actually ailing. 

"I know what you are thinking of a 
cottage in a wood and all that sort of thing 
but undiluted country I never could nor will 



124 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

stand. I can't exist far away from the shops 
and all that makes life worth anything. I should 
lose health and spirits entirely. You must see 
that, Hilary." 

"Yes," Hilary said, looking as though she 
did not see at all. 

She was standing, her slight figure erect, 
her chin uplifted, her eyes on the daffodils she 
was arranging in a quaint brown jar on the 
mantelshelf. There was something so uncom- 
promising in her attitude and in the silence she 
maintained that Mrs. Pederson frowned appre- 
hensively. 

"If you want to make a regular centurion's 
servant of me, Hilary, to be at your beck and 
call and to do just what pleases you, I would 
rather go straight to the workhouse," she said, 
her voice quavering ominously. "It's hard at 
my time of life to be governed by a chit like 
you. It isn't generous of you either, Hilary. 
If you happened to be dependent on me, I 
would not make it a handle to force you to 
do things you did not like." 

Hilary flushed and bit her lip. She re- 
membered that she had used just those words 
herself on the day on which her uncle's legacy 
had been announced to her. She was doing 



A STEP DOWN IN THE WORLD. 125 

the very thing she had declared then would be 
altogether impossible to her. Though she felt 
perfectly certain that what she purposed was 
quite the best course, she was conscious that it 
was not on that account any easier and pleasanter 
for her aunt. She felt the humiliation of Mrs. 
Pederson's position and the ungraciousness of 
her own keenly. 

She looked compunctorily at the querulous 
face which had aged so much during the last 
few weeks. 

" Poor Aunt Sophie ! " she said gently. " You 
shall go wherever you like. If you are anxious 
to stay in London, I have no doubt it can be 
managed." 

Mrs. Pederson accepted Hilary's assurances 
without any show of gratitude. Indeed, she saw 
no need to be grateful. She regarded Hilary's 
little income as a certainty which she had a 
right to share. Since it had been left to the girl 
by the Major, it had actually been taken from 
herself. It was mere justice that in her ex- 
tremity it should go to maintain her. 

The six weeks that followed were wretched 
ones. To Hilary they passed like a nightmare. 
Mr. Kemsing came and went, settling affairs 
with Chivers Smith, arranging for the sale of 



126 MRS. PEDER SON'S NIECE. 

the furniture and the disposal of the lease or 
the house. There were still a thousand and 
one anxieties and difficulties that Hilary and 
Mantle had to face as best they might. Mrs. 
Pederson refused to be consulted or to discuss 
the smallest detail. 

" Do just as you like ; I'm only a pensioner 
on your bounty now, Hilary, and past caring," 
she said, with a show of resignation. "If I 
have to live in sordid poverty, the details do 
not matter." 

She reserved the right to criticise still, and 
Hilary's good-temper was tried to the uttermost 
by a continual fire of the most unreasonable 
fault-finding. 

" Mistress was always a hole-picker, and 
trouble exaggerates a body's weak points," 
Mantle said. "You just do as I do, Miss 
Hilary : hear all she has to say without a word 
and then do what you think best. She never 
notices, and it saves a lot of argufying." 

Mantle would gladly have gone with her 
old mistress, but Hilary could not afford to 
take her. The calculations she had gone into 
with Cousin Paul had shown her the limits of 
ninety pounds a year. The tiny house her in- 
experience had pictured, or the still smaller flat, 



A STEP DOWN IN THE WORLD. 127 

were quite beyond her means, and she wearied 
herself vainly in viewing lodgings seductively 
advertised in the daily papers. 

At last she fell in with a suggestion 
that she should go and see rooms in a cheap 
boarding-house kept by a cousin of Mantle's. 
Mrs. Bateson, the old servant assured Hilary, 
was a kind-hearted woman and would do her 
best for the ladies, though her best would be 
very different to anything to which they had 
been accustomed. 

" I've spoken to her often about you, and I 
know she would be willing to do things reason- 
able for my sake," she said. " You won't get 
anything cheaper in London with comfort, and 
company will make it livelier for mistress. 
She would be moped to death in lodgings." 

Hilary went that afternoon to find " Bateson's 
Select Boarding Establishment," and to arrange, 
if possible, for their removal there. 

It proved to be one of a row of dingy, 
dilapidated houses in a dull street off the 
Kennington Road. A flight of hollowed and 
unwashed steps led to the door, and as Hilary 
entered she was assailed by a pungent scent of 
frying fish. 

A sulky maid ushered her into a small sitting' 



128 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

room, which opened on a verandah crowded 
with languid geraniums just recovering from a 
winter's neglect and crushed-looking tulips in 
fancy pots. 

She was studying this well-meant attempt 
at a winter garden when the door opened and 
a smiling little woman, very stout and mani- 
festly suffering from her rapid ascent of the 
kitchen stairs, bustled into the room. She was 
dressed in a black gown, with a startling 
design of blue roses printed upon it, the 
bodice of which creaked ominously as she settled 
herself in a low chair and prepared to discuss 
business with the young lady. 

" You'll like to see the rooms ? " she said 
gaily, after a little conversation, ostensibly de- 
voted to Hilary's busin^-j, but into which she 
had managed to import a large part of her 
own family history and a eulogistic recommen- 
dation of " Bateson's Select." 

"Select it has always been and select it 
is going to be so long as I hold the reins," 
she said, nodding emphatically. " Bateson's last 
words to me, poor man, were not to let the 
house down whatever it cost me. Anyone can 
let lodgings, said he, but it means talent and 
selection to keep a boarding-house. Liberal 



A STEP DOWN IN THE WORLD. 129 

table, the nicest company, quite the family life 
that is what you will find here, my dear 
quite the family life." 

She conducted Hilary up two flights of stairs 
and opened the door of a good-sized room, 
rather meagrely furnished, but airy and facing 
the south. It was far more comfortable than 
Hilary had dared to expect from the condition 
of the rest of the house. 

She expressed her satisfaction, and followed 
Mrs. Bateson, who insisted that she must see 
the drawing-room or she would have no idea 
of the pleasant family life the boarders lived. 

"After dinner we always gather in the 
drawing-room for a little music and conversation 
so cosy and homely, you know," she said, 
smiling expansively and furtively rubbing her 
hot hands. " From what Miss Mantle tells me, 
your aunt will be one to appreciate the flow of 
wit and the social charm." 

Hilary, with a little smile curving the corners 
of her mouth, assented. The boarding-house 
would at least afford a certain measure of 
amusement. 

The drawing-room was a large room, pre- 
tentiously furnished, in which every article 
seemed to be out of repair or crying out for 



130 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

renovation. Sentimental oleographs adorned 
the discoloured walls, the blinds were torn 
and dingy and the sofas were covered with a 
worn rep, the dazzling blue of which had been 
mercifully dimmed by time and the boarders 
of many seasons. 

Two or three elderly ladies were gathered 
about a small table which was spread with a 
much-chipped tea equipage, and at the piano an 
angular, red-haired woman of thirty or so was 
plaintively informing some "birdie" invisible 
that she had a cage all ready for his occupancy. 

On Mrs. Bateson's entrance she stopped 
in her appeal for his immediate acceptance of 
her offer and wheeled round on the music- 
stool. 

" Another boarder, Mrs. Bateson ? " she asked, 
eyeing Hilary inquisitively. " Please introduce 
me. I daresay Mrs. Bateson has told you that 
we are quite one family," she said, turning to 
Hilary with a little giggle. 

"It's not quite settled, Miss Heckler," Mrs. 
Bateson said impressively ; " I'm just showing 
Miss Pederson the house, and hoping she will 
decide to come to us. Miss Pederson and her 
aunt will be quite acquisitions, if I may say so. 
Miss Pederson has spent a lifetime abroad, and 



A STEP DOWN IN TUB WORLD. 131 

is quite the travelled young lady, and used 
to the best society, quite the best." 

Hilary coloured at this advertisement of 
her advantages and retreated to the door, 
telling Mrs. Bateson she was pressed for time, 
and would decide to take the rooms without 
seeing anything further. 

Away from Mrs. Bateson, with her fat, 
shining lace, her odd manner, and her un- 
mistakable kindness, it was not so easy for 
Hilary to see the brighter side of this new 
phase of existence upon which she was entering. 
It seemed impossible that she, Hilary Pederson, 
Madame Brun's favourite pupil, the idol of the 
school, whose whole life and training had been 
so alien to what was vulgar and commonplace, 
should be going to form one of the " family " 
under Mrs. Bateson's roof. It was an adjust- 
ment of herself to circumstances which could 
not be made all at once. 

A few days later Mrs. Pederson and 
Hilary left Markham Square. 

At the last Mrs. Pederson became pleasantly 
excited by the prospect Hilary's description 
of the boarding-house presented to her imagina- 
tion. She had been terribly afraid of life alone 
with Hilary in small and third-rate lodgings. On 



132 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

a large stage it is possible to live one's life with- 
out interfering with others ; but on a limited 
one, community of interest is essential for 
mutual comfort Mrs. Pederson sometimes felt 
that Hilary was too uncompromising and 
breathed an air too rarefied for her. 

Hilary never forgot that first evening at 
Mrs. Bateson's the overheated dining-room, the 
clatter of plates, and the noise of many people 
eating. She looked, with a sinking of heart, 
down the long table with its soiled cloth, its 
smeared glasses, its steaming joints, and turned 
away with something like nausea from the great 
plate of food thrust over her shoulder by an 
awkward and ill-tempered maid who wore a 
dirty cap and had an unpleasant habit of snort- 
ing as she moved. 

Her seat was next to Mrs. Bateson, whilst 
opposite sat a young man, with a florid com- 
plexion above an expansive shirt-front, in which 
was embedded a huge imitation ruby. 

He stared at her with manifest admiration, 
endeavoured to set her at her ease by some 
chaffing remark, and then continued his con- 
versation with his neighbour. 

" He's an insurance agent in quite a big 
way," whispered Mrs. Bateson; "and quite 



A STEP DOWN IN THE WORLD. 133 

the gentleman is Mr. Bradbrook, for all he is 
so free. Miss Bird would not talk to him 
if he were not vastly agreeable. She is a lady 
journalist, immensely clever, I'm told, and very 
exclusive." 

Hilary nodded and scrutinised the exclusive 
Miss Bird, who was certainly more interesting 
than the insurance agent. She was a yellow- 
haired, pale little woman, with a thin, mobile 
face which reminded Hilary of Frances, and an 
amusing way of expressing herself on the most 
ordinary subjects. 

Mrs. Pederson was already deep in con- 
versation with a showily dressed elderly lady 
with a Jewish cast of countenance, and was 
evidently enjoying her position. Hilary blamed 
herself for feeling forlorn and out of place, and 
hoped that to-morrow would find her less 
tired and captious. 

The dinner ended at last, and with the 
exception of Miss Bird, who had to report a 
meeting in the West End, the whole party 
trooped to the drawing-room, to wile away 
the next hour with a great deal of loud music 
and as much animated conversation. Each 
member contributed his or her quota of gossip, 
good-natured or otherwise, which was tossed 



134 MRS. PEDER SON'S NIECE. 

from one to another, mangled and patched and 
worried, till its owner scarcely recognised it 
as her own. 

Hilary soon made her escape. 

"It is quite clear/' she said as she climbed 
the steep staircase, lit by a flaring gas-jet, 
"that one has to become acclimatised to 
'Bateson's Select Establishment.' I wonder 
what Frances or Ursula would say if they 
could see us at this stage of our fortunes." 



CHAPTER X. 
"BATESON'S SELECT BOARDING 

ESTABLISHMENT." 

IT was a strange kind of life Hilary lived for 
the next few months under Mrs. Bateson's 
roof. It was full of change and had its amusing 
features, but Hilary soon found herself too 
busy to notice peculiarities or to mind much 
the things which had at first jarred upon her. 
Mrs. Pederson made great demands upon her 
time, and it was not long before Mrs. Bateson 
and the boarders discovered that she was deft, 
and willing to please them by the performance 
of small services. 

She was a favourite with them all, and in 
her turn liked those with whom she was bound 
to associate, though she might never have 
chosen them as companions. There was nothing 
mean and spiteful about them, and they were 
kind to the girl, making much of her when she 
came into the drawing-room or accepted an 
invitation to their rooms to give her opinion 
upon some point of private or personal interest. 



136 MRS. PEDERSON' s NIECE. 

The young men called her "stand-off," and 
were a little afraid of her. They could not 
"chaff" her as they did Miss Heckler and the 
knot of telegraph girls who had a corner table 
to themselves at dinner and kept up a bubble 
of laughter and shrill-voiced conversation. They 
did not appear to mind in the least the smeary 
silver and the stained knives which made Hilary 
shudder, and treated a failure in the culinary 
department as an excellent joke. 

There had been efforts towards improvement 
in many directions since the arrival of Mrs. 
and Miss Pederson. Hilary never criticised, to 
be sure, but her very difference from those 
about her was a daily criticism, though she 
was not the least conscious of it. 

Somewhat to Hilary's surprise, Mrs. Pederson 
was pleased with her new surroundings. There 
were times when she lamented loudly the life 
she had left behind her, when she was so irrit- 
able that Hilary scarcely dared to address her, 
yet she indubitably enjoyed the boarding-house 
life which to Hilary seemed such a poor make- 
shift for home. 

Mrs. Pederson delighted in the distinction 
she enjoyed as one who had descended from a 
higher sphere than those about her ever dreamed 



"BATESON'S BOARDING ESTABLISHMENT" 137 

of entering. She liked to entertain little groups 
of ladies with stories of the luxuries and con- 
veniences with which No. 10, Markham Square, 
had been replete. Its charms gained enchant- 
ment the farther they receded into the past, 
till Hilary scarcely recognised in her aunt's 
descriptions the dull, commonplace house in 
which she had spent so many dull, common- 
place months. 

She was glad, however, that her aunt should 
be happy and amused, though she might think 
the method in the worst taste. It made her 
own life decidedly easier. In a good humour, 
Mrs. Pederson was kind-hearted and amusing, 
but if anything put her out, the atmosphere 
about her became electrical, and the most well- 
meant efforts to propitiate her were apt to be 
misconstrued. 

There came a day when Hilary saw that 
even boarding with Mrs. Bateson was a more 
elaborate scheme of life than their scanty in- 
come would stretch to. It became increasingly 
difficult to meet Mrs. Bateson's modest weekly 
bills, and the margin for absolute necessaries 
grew smaller and smaller. Hilary's own gowns 
were threadbare, and there seemed no prospect 
of her being able to replace them. She pored 



138 MRS. PEDERSON' s NIECE. 

over her little account book till her eyes and 
her back ached, but the balance remained ob- 
stinately on the wrong side. 

It was futile to consult Mrs. Pederson. Dis- 
cussions on financial matters always provoked 
an attack of hysteria, in which Hilary's manage- 
ment was wildly denounced and her own 
economy pointed to as a burning example. 

Hilary secretly regarded her aunt's economy 
as a figment of her imagination ; it was built 
upon a few axioms which Mrs. Pederson be- 
lieved to be as infallible as truth itself. She 
guided her own expenditure by them, and no 
sage living would have convinced her that it was 
not always "cheapest in the long run" to buy 
the most expensive articles on the market. 

"The best is always cheapest in the 
long run," she would say firmly, when Hilary 
tried to convince her that if you have only 
ten shillings in hand, it was unwise to spend 
seven of them on lavender gloves or a delicate 
thing in chiffon boas. 

If Hilary hinted that their purse was getting 
empty Mrs. Pederson was always quick to 
express her readiness to find money, a step 
Hilary never failed to combat with all her force. 
She knew what lay behind the suggestion. 



"BATESON'S BOARDING ESTABLISHMENT" 139 

Mrs. Pederson had promised never again to 
have any business relations with Chivers Smith, 
and it was her way of asking her niece to 
release her from that promise. Hilary told 
herself that she would rather beg her bread in 
the street than borrow money of Chivers Smith, 
or consent to her aunt entering the dingy little 
office in Chancery Lane. 

Not that Hilary had lost faith in the world 
or herself. She thought it would be a strange 
thing if she could not find some means of 
adding to her small income. 

She sat at the table one May morning, 
slowly disposing of a breakfast chilled by long 
waiting. She was alone, for the boarders had 
breakfasted half an hour before and gone their 
several ways. The stillness of the house was 
only broken by the tapping of Sarah's broom 
as she swept the stairs, and the cheery voice 
of Mrs. Bateson spurring the heavy and re- 
luctant boot-boy to his duties. Hilary's own 
breakfast was delayed by the necessity for 
waiting upon her aunt, who took her matutinal 
meal in her own room, and felt neglected unless 
Hilary made frequent pilgrimages up the four 
flights of steps to replenish her tray. 

A newspaper was propped against the coffee- 



140 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECB. 

pot, and Hilary, whose meal was not of that 
luxurious kind which demands the whole atten- 
tion, divided hers impartially between its columns 
and her cup of cold coffee. There was a 
glimmer of a smile in her blue eyes as they 
went steadily down the long list of advertise- 
ments. So many things amused her which 
other people found the grimmest commonplace. 

"To reduce personal vanity, begin to 
enumerate your capabilities and accomplishments 
with a view to earning your daily bread," she 
said aloud. "I give the recipe gratis to any- 
one it may concern. If I were gifted with the 
qualifications necessary to a thorough cook or 
a scullery-maid, or a 'cutter/ whatever that 
may be, I should find myself a pearl of great 
price to some needy advertiser. As it is, I am 
simply staggered by my own ineptitude." 

She threw down the paper with a rueful 
laugh and leaned her chin in the palms of her 
hands. 

"I'm determined to do something but 
what ? " she said thoughtfully. " It ought to 
be something which did not take me from 
home very long, for Aunt Sophie would dislike 
that awfully." 

She pushed back her chair, and was folding 



*BATESON'S BOARDING ESTABLISHMENT? 141 

the paper when Mrs. Bateson came into the 
room. 

"Don't you hurry over your breakfast, my 
dear," she said. " It isn't the least bit of con- 
sequence how long you sit if you don't mind 
carrying your cup and plate down to the kitchen 
when you have done. It's more than I dare ask 
Sarah to clear the table twice in a morning." 
She sat down in a chair and wiped her heated 
brow with a not over-clean handkerchief. She 
laboured under an unconquerable tendency to 
get physically warm, and the climb from the 
kitchen to the dining-room was a steep one. 

"It is the stairs that try me, dear," she 
said, fanning herself. "I hope you will never 
get stout, though some people don't seem to 
feel their fat like I do. I wanted to ask you 
whether you would mind going round to the 
butcher's for me this morning. Mrs. Moss has 
sent down to say she feels a bit poorly, 
and thinks a sweetbread for her lunch would 
do her good. They are dreadfully expensive, 
but I always like to please the boarders if it 
lies in my power; it is only what one ought 
to do, of course." Mrs. Bateson was one of 
those kindly creatures who want everybody to 
have the best of everything, and she did not 



142 MRS. PEDER SON'S NIECE, 

mind struggling and pinching herself to get it 
for them. 

" What have you been reading, my dear ? 
Any news about the Royal family ? I seldom get 
a minute to look at the papers, and the gentle- 
men always expect you to be able to talk about 
what is going on. I get Miss Heckler to give 
me hints, for she just soaks herself in the 
daily papers. It is about all she has to do, 
poor thing. When I'm torn in two with work 
I do envy her a bit ; but, after all, she has a 
deal duller life than I have, when all's said and 
done." 

"And how much less useful, dear Mrs. 
Bateson ! " Hilary said affectionately. She was 
fond of the little, hardworked, ever-cheerful 
landlady, who had been a good friend to her 
during the past seven months. "I was not 
reading the news this morning, but the dry 
advertisement columns," she added, laughing. 
" It has come to this, Mrs. Bateson : I must 
try to earn a little money somehow." 

Mrs. Bateson nodded. "To be sure, ladies 
do it everywhere nowadays, and very wise they 
are. I suppose you will look for some teaching, 
my dear a morning's job that would give you 
a bit of time to yourself ? " 



BOARDING ESTABLISHMENT" 143 

Hilary shook her head. "I feel as though 
I would rather do anything else." She moved 
to the window and stood looking out. "I'm 
not clever, you see, and I have no accom- 
plishments. I can talk French and German 
because I have been abroad so long, but no one 
seems to crave for such services as I can render, 
though I've searched the columns with the eyes 
of a hawk." 

" You have patience, my dear ; one paper is 
nothing. I'll send William out for another 
paper, and we will look through it together when 
I have a moment to spare. I must go down 
to the kitchen now and arrange about the dishes 
for luncheon and dinner. What a comfort it is 
to think that in heaven there won't be any eat- 
ing and drinking." 

Hilary laughed. "And I must run up to 
Aunt Sophie, who will be waiting for her can 
of hot water. Shall I dust the drawing-room for 
you, and mend those tablecloths, when I come 
down ? " 

" My dear, you are too kind ! Sarah is no 
good as a housemaid when it comes to darning. 
I had to sit up till midnight last night mending, 
for Mrs. Moss said that the place looked like a 
ragbag." 



144 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

"Rude old creature!" cried Hilary. "Leave 
the tablecloths to me, and woe betide her if she 
finds fault with anything in my presence." 

Mrs. Bateson thanked her gratefully, and went 
off to discuss with the cook the simple dishes 
which appeared on the menu-cards under highly 
decorative names, spelt with a freedom which 
was certainly more entertaining than informa- 
tive. 



CHAPTER XI. 
"WHAT BECAME OF THE SOVEREIGNS?" 

MRS. PEDERSON had not been the same woman 
since the change in her fortunes. The low fever 
into which she had fretted herself, and which 
clung to her for some weeks after she came 
to Tozer Street, had left her weak and irritable. 
She was subject to fits of nervous depression, 
and had lost much of her vivacity. Her dark 
eyes no longer flashed and glittered, and an 
expression of peevishness and discontent had 
settled upon her long, thin face, whilst her con- 
versation, when alone with Hilary, was usually 
made up of complaint and reproach. 

She was moving about the bedroom restlessly 
when her niece opened the door. Her hat and 
coat lay on a chair, and she was stretching a 
pair of white doeskin gloves as she walked up 
and down. 

"Why, Aunt Sophie, you are dressed an 
hour before your usual time," Hilary said cheer- 
fully. "Do you feel so much better this morn- 
ing? I expected you would be still in bed." 



146 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

" Nonsense ! my watch points to ten o'clock, 
and I never lie after that," Mrs. Pederson said 
sharply. "You have been gossiping with Mrs. 
Bateson, I suppose, and did not notice the 
time. I had to ring and ask Sarah to bring 
me up my hot water, and a great fuss she 
made about it. As though we did not pay 
for attention and that sort of thing ! " 

"We pay very little, you know," Hilary 
reminded her. "Mrs. Bateson naturally expects 
us to give as little trouble as we can." 

Mrs. Pederson shrugged her shoulders and 
set her bangles jingling. 

" I don't trouble myself about Mrs. Bateson's 
expectations, and you need not do so either. 
Wait till I can make a little money, and we 
will leave her and find a more select place." 
She stopped, and glanced furtively at Hilary. 
The girl was looking at her with a little 
perpendicular line between her dark eyebrows. 

"For goodness' sake, don't stare at me as 
though I were an antediluvian monster, girl," 
she said tartly. "Help me into my coat. I 
am going out to do some shopping before the 
counters get crowded. Give me a couple of 
pounds that will be as much as I shall need." 

Hilary's lips tightened. She had only a 



"WHAT BECAME OF THE SOVEREIGNS?" 147 

very few pounds in her purse, and it would be 
many weeks before her dividends were due. 
She would be obliged to refuse her aunt, and 
it was a proceeding which past experience had 
made her unwilling to repeat. 

"Must you really have the money, Aunt 
Sophie ? " she said hesitatingly. " We can spare 
it very badly for anything but actual neces- 
sities." 

Mrs. Pederson turned from the glass where 
she was arranging her veil over her grey fringe. 

"Of course I must have it, or you may be 
sure I should not ask," she said. " I'm sick of 
having you hold the purse-strings, Hilary. It's 
humiliating to me at my time of life. Next 
quarter when the dividends come you must make 
up your mind to hand them over to me. After 
all, it is really my money, though your uncle, 
for some silly reason, thought he must leave 
you independent." 

Hilary sighed impatiently. She was so tired 
of this oft-repeated taunt, and if it had not 
been that she had promised Cousin Paul to 
keep her purse in her own hands, she would 
long ago have allowed Mrs. Pederson to 
manage or mismanage their joint income as she 
pleased. 



148 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

"When the dividends come they will nearly 
all have to go to Mrs. Bateson. We shall be 
heavily in her debt," she said wearily. 

" That woman is a regular leech 1 " exclaimed 
Mrs. Pederson. "Seventy pounds a year for 
the miserable meals and the dirty rooms she 
gives us ! It's ridiculous. If I only had a 
little capital I would start a boarding-house 
myself and grow rich on it." 

" Much or little, it is more than we shall be 
able to continue to pay, Aunt Sophie," Hilary 
replied, taking her purse out of her pocket and 
emptying the contents on the dressing-table. 

"That has to last us nearly three months," 
she said, pointing to the three sovereigns, the 
few shillings, and the pile of coppers. 

Mrs. Pederson paused in the act of putting 
on her hat and glanced at the small sum which 
represented their available income. 

"Gracious ! what a muddler you must be, 
Hilary 1 " she ejaculated. 

Hilary flushed. A sharp retort rose to her 
lips, but she had learnt that the best defence at 
such times was not to answer a word. 

Mrs. Pederson watched her petulantly as she 
moved about the room, making the bed, sweep- 
ing the litter into the grate, and dusting the 



"WHAT BECAME OF THE SOVEREIGNS?" 149 

ornaments. It was manifest that, as far as 
Hilary was concerned, the conversation was 
closed. 

Suddenly Mrs. Pederson dropped into a chair 
and, after her wont when thwarted, began to 
weep boisterously. 

"It's hard, hard, hard to be brought to 
poverty at my time of life. Nobody ever 
guessed it would happen when I married your 
Uncle Pederson, Hilary," she gasped between 
her sobs. "There were many envied me that 
day, I can tell you. I never knew what it was 
to want a pound in my life, and now, to 
think only a few paltry shillings stand between 
me and want." 

"It is not quite so bad as that," Hilary 
said patiently. "We shall not want at all if 
we are careful." She might have reminded this 
victim of outrageous fortune that her woes 
were of her own manufacture, and that foolish- 
ness, and not misfortune, had brought her to her 
present condition. 

The torrent of Mrs. Pederson's woe was 
soon assuaged. She remembered that she was 
going out, and glanced furtively into the mirror 
to see what ravages her tears had wrought on 
her thin, grey face. 



150 MRS. PEDERSON s NIEC&. 

"You mean well, Hilary," she said magnani- 
mously. " I don't forget that you pulled me 
through this trouble when Frances chose to 
leave her sick mother to do the best she could. 
We won't worry. Who knows how soon my 
ship may come home and we shall have enough 
to live comfortably on." She nodded signifi- 
cantly, and wiped her eyes on a lace-edged 
handkerchief which belonged to Hilary. 

The girl stopped, duster in hand, and looked 
at her aunt apprehensively. 

" What do you mean, Aunt Sophie ? " she 
asked quickly. "You have no ship to come 
home, to use your own metaphor. You cannot, 
you surely cannot have been letting Chivers 
Smith persuade you to speculate again." Her 
memory went swiftly back to various occasions 
when her aunt had borrowed a pound or two 
and gone out, ostensibly to shop, but had brought 
nothing back with her for her outlay. 

Mrs. Pederson flushed, and flung open the 
window, saying that she was stifling for want 
of space to breathe in. 

"Why should you think I have been 
speculating again ? " she asked sharply. " Isn't 
there a proverb that the burnt child dreads the 
fire ? Surely I may have reason to hope that 




"'Another boarder, Mrs. Bateson ? ' she asked, eyeing Hilary 

inquisitively" (p. 130). 



"WHAT BECAME OF THE SOVEREIGNS?" 151 

some of the money I sunk in that wretched 
gold mine will come back some day ? Don't 
harbour suspicions, Hilary ; only horrid people 
are mistrustful. Now, run down and see if you 
can get me a cup of tea, there's a good child. 
All this excitement has given me a violent 
headache." 

Hilary departed somewhat unwillingly. 
Mrs. Pederson's predilection for tea at un- 
wonted hours was a bone of contention in the 
kitchen. She went down the stairs thought- 
fully. Her aunt's explanation had not con- 
vinced her in the least, and she was certain 
that Mrs. Pederson's promise not to dabble 
again in business had been broken. 

"It's no use asking Sarah for hot water 
now, she will have the stove filled with 
saucepans," she said aloud. " I will fetch a kettle, 
and ask Mrs. Moss to let me boil some water 
on her gas-stove." 

Mrs. Moss was always pleased to grant the 
girl this favour. It gave her a few minutes of 
Hilary's company and made a spot of bright- 
ness in a day that was uniformly drab. 

This morning Hilary found her deep in the 
consideration of a new cap, and her knock at 
the door was hailed as most opportune. She 



152 MRS. PEDERSOrfs NlECE. 

could give her advice whilst the kettle 
boiled. 

The purchase of a new cap was an event in 
the life of Mrs. Moss, and the respective merits 
of turquoise with pearl and old lace with 
myrtle green velvet had to be carefully 
weighed. 

It was ten minutes before the girl could 
make her escape without an appearance of 
undue haste. 

She hurried upstairs and entered the bed- 
room with an apology for her tardiness on her 
lips. 

The room was empty. One glance towards 
the wardrobe told her that Mrs. Pederson's 
coat and sunshade were gone. 

"How mean of her, after giving me the 
trouble to make tea ! " she exclaimed hotly, 
setting the tray down on the chest of drawers 
and looking round her. 

Then her colour faded, and she darted to 
the table. She had left her little store of 
money there, and the sovereigns were gone ! 

She dropped into a chair, and leaning her 
head on her hands shed the bitterest tears she 
had shed in her young life. 

Mrs. Pederson did not return until the gong 



"WHAT BECAME OF THE SOVEREIGNS?" 153 

had sounded for dinner, and Hilary, ready 
dressed, was coming down the stairs. 

The girl passed her with the ghost of a 
smile. She could not speak to her yet, though 
had made up her mind not to allude to her 
loss. She had thought the matter out as she 
sat darning the tablecloths in Mrs. Bateson's 
stuffy little back room. 

She would find a situation somewhere in 
the country, somewhere too far away from 
town for Aunt Sophie to be tempted by Chivers 
Smith to embark in wild speculations, and 
where she would not be constantly reminded 
of her lessened means. It would be hard 
work to persuade her to leave London, but 
Hilary meant to achieve it. She felt she was 
right, and flattered herself that she could make 
her aunt also see the wisdom of the step. 

"And you will be doing the right thing, my 
dear, I agree," said Mrs. Bateson, to whom she 
expounded her views and laid bare her plans. 
" London's a place full of temptations ir you have 
not much money; but it will be like losing 
the sunshine of the house to lose you. There's 
never been such peace and harmony under this 
roof as since you came. It is that knack you 
have of making folks feel pleased with them- 



154 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

selves. The boarders don't grumble half so 
much as they did; and as for Sarah, it's quite 
comfortable to live with her. But there, I 
shouldn't say a word; I'm a selfish woman 
even to mention my own loss when it's clearly 
for the best. We'll look in the paper for a 
nice easy place in the country for you ; it'll 
be time enough to upset Mrs. Pederson when 
that's found" 

As the girl was going up to her own room 
later in the evening Mrs. Bateson opened the 
sitting-room door and called her softly. 

"Are you too tired to come in a minute, 
my dear ? " she said, excitedly waving a copy 
of a weekly literary paper to which Miss Bird 
subscribed. " I believe there is something here 
which would exactly suit you." 

Hilary followed her into the back room and 
Mrs. Bateson shut the door. 

" I just took up Miss Bird's paper when she 
went out to-night and caught my eye on this," 
she said, pointing to a paragraph at the head 
of the short column. "You're half a French 
and German girl, and this ought to suit you to 
the ground, as Mr. Bradbrook says." 

Hilary took the paper and read the adver- 
tisement carefully. A literary man, temporarily 



" WHAT BECAME OF THE SOVEREIGNS?" 155 

forbidden to use his eyes, wanted a secretary 
able to read French and German fluently, for 
literary purposes. Further particulars were to 
be had by applying personally to Mr. Hilder, 
Fairmead, Meadham, Hertfordshire. 

Nothing could have sounded more attractive 
to the girl, and it was the first advertisement 
she had seen which made her one qualification 
a condition. 

"It's the very thing I should like," she 
said reflectively. 

"Yes, the exact thing," nodded Mrs. 
Bateson. "You must apply at once, my dear. 
It's a pity they say 'apply personally,' for it 
will be a journey, and a railway fare is ex- 
pensive. For all that, you must go right 
off to-morrow morning. I'll see that Mrs. 
Pederson wants for nothing while you are 
gone. I believe it will turn out the very thing, 
or why should my eyes have lit on a paragraph 
in a paper I don't look at once in a twelve- 
month ? It's just a leading, Miss Hilary, and 
you go to Meadham the first thing in the 
morning." 

"If I get the post I shall owe it to you, 
dear Mrs. Bateson," Hilary said, putting her 
arm affectionately round the stout shoulder, 



156 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECB. 

over which the smart gown strained ominously. 
"I shall never forget what a friend you have 
been to me all these months." 

The kind little woman sniffed audibly and 
wiped her damp forehead. 

" Don't you say nothing of that, Miss Hilary. 
I would gladly keep you and your aunt for 
nothing if I could afford it. You're a real ray 
of sunshine, and you give the air of distinction 
to the table, too. If the boarders were all like 
you it would be a pleasure to keep up the 
establishment ; but there, if you want to find 
politeness and consideration you must look for 
them in a class above the Hecklers and 
Mosses and such like who, poor things, don't 
know any better. Bateson always voted 
Conservative because, he said, the most tip-top 
people he knew were the pleasantest to deal 
with. As I often told him, the rest meant no 
harm ; but if you are very near the mud, you 
like to keep calling out you are not in it, or 
how are folks to know ? My motto has 
always been, take people as you find them and 
believe that they mostly mean well." 



CHAPTER XII. 

HILARY TAKES HER OWN WAY. 

VERY early next morning Hilary got up, 
dressed herself carefully in a fresh white blouse, 
brushed her shabby serge skirt, and ran down- 
stairs. It was scarcely seven o'clock, and none 
of the boarders were yet astir. Sarah was 
sleepily sweeping the front steps, and stopped 
with broom suspended to stare at the girl. 

" My word 1 you're an early bird, miss," she 
exclaimed. "I'm sure I would not leave my 
bed an hour before I need, if I were in your 
shoes." 

" I'm going into the country this morning, 
Sarah. It will be lovely there this fine day, 
won't it ? I wonder if cook could give me a 
cup of coffee at once if I went down to her. 
I want to catch the 9.15 from St. Pancras." 

"If you can wait till I've finished these 
steps, miss, I'll go down and fetch it myself," 
said Sarah. " I daresay cook will be preparing 
our breakfasts." Sarah had a reputation among 
the boarders for disobligingness, but she never 



1 58 MRS. PEDERSON' s NIECE. 

hesitated to take a little trouble for Miss 
Pederson. 

"And if you would not mind taking my 
aunt some hot water at nine o'clock, I should 
have a heart at ease, Sarah," Hilary said 
pleasantly. " She will be sure to miss me when 
she wants to get up." 

Sarah agreed, though without any enthusiasm. 
She disliked waiting on Mrs. Pederson, who was 
seldom satisfied with any service rendered her. 

It was a brilliant May morning, with a fore- 
taste of summer in the warm spring wind and 
in the clear blue sky. Even in Tozer Street 
the air was fresh, and the sickly plants on the 
window-sills looked less depressed than was 
their wont. 

Hilary had seen nothing of rural England, 
and as the train swept through the country, 
leaving behind it the suburbs of the great city, 
whirling past undulating meadows, wooded slopes, 
cool and green in the early morning sunlight, 
she looked from the window with unconcealed 
delight. It was a little more than an hour's 
run to Meadham, a tiny, sleepy village, nestling 
amid stretches of farm-lands, seemingly un- 
heedful of the bustle and business of the big 
town scarcely a couple of miles away. The 



HILARY TAKES HER OWN WAY. 159 

little wayside station was a mile from the 
village, and the country folk were quite content 
that it should be so. They did not want its 
smoke and its shrill whistle breaking their 
peace day and night. So long as the train was 
there when they wanted to go into Bishop's 
Merton, that was all they asked. What was 
a mile to men and women who walked three 
times that distance to their daily toil ? 

How clean and sweet the whole neighbour- 
hood seemed to Hilary as she left the station 
and set out to walk to Meadham. In London 
parks the first tiny leaves on the lime-trees 
were just bursting their pointed sheaths. Here 
the brown boughs were draped with greenery 
and the hedgerows white with blackthorn. A 
river gurgled somewhere out of sight, and there 
was a hum of bees busy among the early wild 
flowers. The air rang with innumerable bird- 
notes, clear and cheery, and across the fields 
some church bells, calling to early service, 
sounded sweetly on the pleasant morning breeze. 

Hilary had no difficulty in finding Fairmead, 
for her first inquiry elicited the fullest informa- 
tion. Fairmead was evidently a place of 
importance in the neighbourhood. 

It was a large and rambling old manor-house, 



160 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

set in its own well-wooded grounds, and old 
enough to be picturesque without being pre- 
tentious. A dark holly-hedge shut it in from the 
gaze of the curious, and over this prickly boundary 
the purple and white of lilac and " the dropping 
wells" of golden laburnum nodded to the 
admiring girl. 

This May day, with its clear sky and sun- 
shine, its fragrance of flowers and young foliage, 
showed the place at its best. 

Hilary found a gate in the hedge, and walked 
up the path to the house. Not a sign of 
human habitation encouraged her to mount the 
broad flight of low steps which led to the 
heavy, oak-bound door. Her knock re-echoed 
through the silent house in the most dis- 
concerting manner, and there was time for 
her to feel oddly shy before footsteps were 
heard and a prim, elderly servant opened the 
door. 

She looked surprised to see a visitor at this 
early hour, and in reply to Hilary's request to 
see Mr. Hilder, said that her master was not 
seeing callers just now. 

" I am scarcely a visitor," said Hilary frankly. 
*'I come on a matter of business." 

"Then perhaps you will walk in, and I 



HILARY TAKES HER OWN WAY. 161 

will tell my mistress. I will ask her if she 
can see you." 

Hilary followed the maid across a wide, tiled 
hall, and was ushered into a cool, shaded 
drawing-room with many windows opened on a 
lovely, old-fashioned garden which reminded her 
of Madame Brun's garden in Paris. The room 
itself was one of those quaint, old-world parlours 
only seen in country houses which have been 
lived in for generations by one family. There 
was that mingling of shabbiness and comfort, that 
apparent retention of this or that from affection 
rather than utility or decoration, which no 
upholsterer can give to a house " furnished 
throughout on the most modern and artistic 
scale." A few valuable Romneys and Reynolds 
on the walls drew attention from the faded 
draperies, and masses of golden daffodils in 
costly jars lit up dark comers. There was a 
little fine Chippendale furniture and a mantel- 
piece carved by Grinling Gibbons, and though 
Hilary's eyes were too untrained to gauge their 
real merit, she approved their beauty. 

She had plenty of time to study her sur- 
roundings. An hour passed before the door 
opened and there entered a little old lady, 
for whom this charming room seemed the 



162 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECB. 

most appropriate setting. She was exceedingly 
tiny, quite the smallest creature Hilary had 
ever seen, with little white, blue-veined hands 
, and dark, deep-set eyes, which flashed in quite 
a youthful way from her faded old face. She 
wore a long grey gown, clinging and unrustling, 
and a black lace cap, coming to a point on her 
abundant white hair. She must once have been 
very beautiful ; even now there was an air ol 
distinction and dignity about her, despite her 
diminutive proportions. 

She sat down in a high-backed chair and 
motioned Hilary to sit near her. 

"You inquired for Mr. Hilder, Miss Peder- 
son. Just now I have to be the medium be- 
tween him and callers. He is suffering from 
an affection of the eyes and only sees strangers 
on the most urgent business." 

" I came in answer to the advertisement," 
Hilary said, wishing she did not feel so shy 
and awkward. "Mr. Hilder wants a secretary 
who can read German and French. I have 
lived so long abroad that I speak them almost 
as freely as my native tongue. I am very 
anxious to get some post which will bring in 
a little money. I shall be most awfully glad 
if Mr. Hilder will try me." 



HILARY TAKES HER OWN WAY. 163 

The old lady looked at her with un- 
mistakable surprise and some disapproval. She 
was a very old-fashioned little lady, and the 
boldness of the modern girl in entering the 
arena and battling with her brothers for a live- 
lihood was something she could not understand. 

"You astonish me," she said, shaking her 
head. " I am sure that Mr. Hilder never en- 
tertained the idea of a lady secretary." 

" Perhaps the idea of a girl doing what he 
wants has not occurred to him, but it may not 
be displeasing when it is suggested," urged 
Hilary, gathering courage. "Many girls take 
such posts, you know. I am ready to work 
very hard to please him. I'm sure he will find 
my German and French all right." 

Mrs. Hilder leaned back in her chair, and a 
faint smile crossed her faded old face. There 
was something very attractive about this eager, 
radiant young creature, but it seemed oddly in- 
congruous to think of her earning her living. 

"Tell me, is it necessary for you to earn 
money, my child, or is it that you are bitten by 
the modern notions concerning independence 
and freedom to do as fancy dictates ? " she asked. 

Hilary's colour rose. 

" It is necessary, absolutely necessary," she 



104 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECB. 

replied quietly. Then something in the old 
lady's pitiful ejaculation, in the sweet, old-world 
haste with which she apologised for putting the 
embarrassing question, moved the girl to tell 
her the whole story. She found herself pouring 
out the tale of Mrs. Pederson's losses, the 
impossibility of their remaining at Mrs. Bateson's, 
and her own determination to add to her 
income and to save her aunt the discomforts 
which were, for her, actually temptations. 

"If you can do what Mr. Hilder requires 
you shall come, my poor child," the old lady 
said, feeling that she was about to pluck a brand 
from the burning. " I will go up to him at 
once. Perhaps he will be able to see you, and 
the whole matter can be settled." 

Left alone, Hilary went over the long inter- 
view with interest. 

"What a dear old ladyl And how well she 
has mastered the art of growing old gracefully," 
she thought. " If only Aunt Sophie would take 
lessons from her I But that is past hoping for. 
I am sure she will do her best to persuade 
Mr. Hilder to try me. I hope he is not an 
obstinate old gentleman, with prejudices against 
employing what Mr. Bradbrook generically 
terms ' female labour.' " 



HILARY TAKES HER OWN WAY. 165 

She waited ten minutes, then the maid 
who admitted her opened the door and requested 
her to walk up to the library. 

Hilary sprang to her feet with alacrity. It 
was surely a good omen that Mr. Hilder had 
consented to see her. She followed the maid 
up the wide, polished staircase, along a corridor 
hung with grim family portraits, and was 
ushered into a large, sunny room, lined with 
books. A writing-table stood in the great bow 
window, and in an armchair before it sat a 
man, who rose hastily to his feet as she 
entered. 

Hilary stared at him with a startled face 
as she dropped into the chair Mrs. Hilder 
pointed out to her. It was patent she had 
mistaken the relation between the old lady and 
the young man who now moved slowly across 
the room, to anchor on the hearthrug. 

" My son, this is the young lady of whom 
I spoke to you," Mrs. Hilder said gently. 
" You will be glad to know, Miss Pederson, that 
my son has no prejudices against employing 
a lady secretary, provided other things are 
equal." She sat down as she spoke in the 
chair Mr. Hilder had vacated, and smiled en- 
couragingly at the girl. 



1 66 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

Hilary expressed her pleasure rather nervously. 
She was more anxious than ever to obtain this 
post, and decided, in her impetuous way, that 
she would love to work for the man, who now 
began to question her concerning her various 
qualifications. 

She looked at him long and pitifully. 
There was this sad privilege in being Max 
Hilder's companion ; he could not know 
however intently you studied him, however 
sorrowful the gaze fixed on his face. He was 
a tall, broadly built young Saxon, with a 
quantity of light brown hair falling in loose waves 
about his white and smooth forehead. A dis- 
figuring shade hid the upper part of his face, 
but the firm chin, the curve of the clean-shaven 
cheek, suggested that it was strong and manly, 
if not handsome. 

"And you are ready to pity the sorrows of 
a blind beggar, Miss Pederson ? " he said lightly. 
"All other things being equal, I would rather 
have a woman for my work than a man. He 
would not be able to keep the insolence of 
his own health and his ' thank-God-I-am-not-as- 
this-other-man ' out of his tone and manner. 
It is one thing to bear your infirmities and 
quite another to have them thrust upon your 



HILARY TAKES HER OWN WAY. 167 

notice." He ended with a laugh, which touched 
Hilary more than bitterness could have done, 
it was so frank and cheery. It was manifest 
that however the world was darkened for the 
man, he meant to show it an unruffled front 
and meet the blows "with sword broken but 
unbroken courage." She could imagine him 
crying with Heine, "Let me grow old in body, 
but let my soul stay young; let my voice 
quaver and falter, but never my hope." 

" I will do my very best ; I will work hard," 
she said impulsively. "Will you explain what 
the duties would be, and see if my knowledge 
is up to your requirements, Mr. Hilder ? " 

He smiled. "The duties are simple. I am 
preparing a book on French and German folk- 
tales, and your duties, put briefly, would be to 
read to me, to write at my dictation, and to 
look up points I want verified. I expect I 
shall be an autocratic master, for I am not 
accustomed to using anyone's brains but my own, 
and one does not stop to measure the labour 
of one's own hand and mind. By the way, you 
might read me a page or two of German. 
Since you have been in school in Paris your 
French will be sure to be all right. There is 
a copy of the 'Reise Bilder' on that small 



1 68 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

table. Open it where the marker is put and 
read on." 

Hilary found the book, and began to read in 
in her clear, vibrant voice. The book was new 
to her, and she soon became interested in it j 
something in the bitter-sweet lines of the 
German poet made her think of the blind 
student who was listening to her; like Heine, 
he was suffering under a heavy disability, and, 
like the poet, he had set himself to bear it 
with unfaltering courage and a mirthful spirit. 

She read on, scarcely noting the time, till Mr. 
Hilder stopped her. 

" Thank you, that will do. You read 
splendidly, Miss Pederson. I shall think myself 
lucky to have your help with my work. Did 
my mother tell you that the engagement was 
really only a temporary affair ? I hope to be 
a whole man again in the autumn, and the 
engagement therefore can scarcely last more 
than three months. Do you care to come to 
me on such terms ? " 

" Yes, I will come," said Hilary. " I gathered 
from the advertisement that it was not per- 
manent. I shall be glad to do what I can in 
that time." 

"Then it is settled. I can't talk more now. 



HILARY TAKES HER OWN WAY. 169 

My mother will arrange with you about terms 
and that kind of thing," he said. "Mother, 
are you going to give Miss Pederson some lunch 
now ? I see that it is time for Gregory to bring 
mine, and fellow-feeling makes us wondrous kind. 
Don't you agree with the famous Mr. Pepys, 
Miss Pederson, that one's amiability is apt to 
suffer when one is ' empty ' ? " 

Hilary laughed, and followed Mrs. Hilder 
from the room. 

" My dear, you are his first visitor, and he is 
tired," the old lady said apologetically. "He 
will not dismiss his visitors quite so abruptly in 
a week's time." 

" Has he been very ill ? " asked Hilary 
sympathetically. 

"Not perhaps as you would count illness, 
my dear," Mrs. Hilder said, looking into the 
radiant, healthy young face. "There are things 
harder to bear and more truly wearing to the 
system than bodily pain, though Max has had 
his share of that also. Six months ago he 
caught a fever in Perugia, and something went 
wrong with his eyes. You can guess what that 
meant to him. It threatened to blight his 
whole literary career. He went to Wiesbaden 
as soon as he was well enough to travel, to 



170 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

consult Pagenstecher, the famous oculist 
Pagenstecher sent him home at once. He 
could do nothing for him then ; he told him 
to give the eyes complete rest and, in the 
autumn, to go again to Wiesbaden for an 
operation. Though the oculist is hopeful, he has 
warned us that it may not be successful." 

" If not oh, how sad I " said Hilary, tears 
starting to her eyes. 

Mrs. Hilder smiled faintly. 

"It almost broke my heart; but I have 
compensations even in this trouble. No 
sorrow is without its mitigations. The old 
know it, though the young find it hard to 
believe. They have no memory of outlived 
sorrows to learn from, as we have. I have 
my boy's company, which I had not in his 
days of health and work. It has made me 
very glad to find him anxious to take up again 
the thread of his studies. It was terrible to 
see him, in the first weeks of his darkness, 
sitting idle, and almost speechless, after a life 
so full and bright as his has been. He wa 
heroically patient, but passive patience is a 
dreary thing to watch. He is patient still, but 
it is with that noble patience which is concen- 
trated strength. He has adjusted himself to 



HILARY TAKES HER OWN WAV. 171 

life as it is, and with your help, he may do his 
best work this summer." 

"I will do all I can," repeated Hilary, 
feeling that the simple words only feebly 
expressed all she meant to achieve. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

A COTTAGE IN A WOOD. 

OVER luncheon the details of Hilary's engage- 
ment were arranged. She was to receive forty 
pounds a year and to spend five hours each 
day at Fairraead. Hilary decided that she 
was singularly fortunate ; with this addition 
to her income she could hope to make Aunt 
Sophie more comfortable than she had been 
since leaving Markham Square. 

"There is the question of your lodgings, 
Miss Pederson," Mrs. Hilder said, as they 
rose from the table. "I have lived so long 
in Meadham that no doubt I can help you." 

" Lodgings ! " exclaimed Hilary, making a 
wry face. "I have suffered so much in other 
people's houses that I hoped it would be 
possible to take a cottage, even if it were a very 
small one." 

" Possible, of course, but imprudent," said Mrs. 
Hilder. " You see, my dear, your engagement is 
actually only a temporary one. At the end 
of three or four months Mr. Hilder will go to 



A COTTAGE IN A WOOD. 173 

Germany, and on his return he may need 
you no longer. I cannot buoy you up with 
the faintest hope of finding another position in 
this quiet neighbourhood." 

Hilary laughed and nodded. " I always for- 
get the poet's advice to 'look before and after. 
Of course, it must be lodgings, though I say it 
with keenest regret." 

"That need not depress you, my dear. 
Your experiences perhaps have been unpleasant," 
said Mrs. Hilder. " I have something to 
propose which I think will suit you." She 
went to the window and drew back the lace 
curtain. "Do you see that red roof peeping 
from among the trees beyond the shrubbery ? 
A niece of mine, the widow of a London 
doctor, lives there. Her means are not large, 
and the house is more roomy than she requires 
for her own needs. I believe she would take 
you and your aunt to board with her if I 
suggested it. I could wish you no better 
fortune than to live under Agnes Vision's roof. 
To know her is a liberal education." 

Hilary looked apprehensive. Such a re- 
markable woman might be difficult to please ; 
and how would she stand Aunt Sophie's many 
eccentricities ? 



1/4 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

Mrs. Hilder seemed to anticipate no 
objections. "Suppose we go at once and see 
her," she said. "She is leaving Meadham in 
a day or two to visit some of her husband's 
relatives in Russia, so that for a few weeks you 
and your aunt might expect to have the house 
to yourselves. You would have no trouble, 
however, on that score, for Mrs. Vision's 
servants thoroughly understand the care of 
the house." 

Evidently considering her small lace cap 
sufficient head- covering for the short walk to 
Mead Cottage, Mrs. Hilder stepped out on 
the terrace, and with Hilary at her side went 
down the large, well-kept garden. Near as the 
cottage had appeared, it was five minutes' walk 
from Fairmead. A rustic bridge crossed a 
little stream which flowed beyond the belt 
of firs, then a little spinney, carpeted with 
primroses, had to be traversed before they 
were at the gate of the quaint, red-roofed 
cottage. 

Mrs. Vision was in the porch nailing up a 
climbing rose-bush when her visitors came up 
the pebbled path. She put down her hammer 
and came forward to meet them, glancing past 
Mrs. Hilder's grey-clad figure to her tall 



A COTTAGE IN A WOOD. 175 

companion with a faint expression of surprise. 
It was seldom that visitors came to Fairmead, 
and never once since its master's illness. 

All Hilary's compunctions vanished as she 
looked at Mrs. Vision. 

"I'm like the Queen of Sheba, the half 
was not told me," she said mentally. "I've 
only seen three Meadham people, and each one 
is a miracle of niceness. What a favoured spot 
it must be 1 " 

Mrs. Vision was a tall, fair woman, verging 
on thirty. She was not handsome, for her 
features were too heavily moulded for beauty, 
but both her face and her amply proportioned 
figure had that air of distinction which Balzac 
declares the most precious gift that can be 
bestowed upon a woman. She wore a loose, 
graceful gown of some rich black material 
hanging in large folds which reminded Hilary 
of the drapery of a Greek statue she had seen 
at the British Museum. 

"How kind of you to come over to see 
me, Aunt Lucia," she said in a low, musical 
voice. "I am all alone. The maids have gone 
to Bishop's Merton for a day's shopping." 

"It is a business call, not a social function," 
said Mrs. Hilder, introducing Hilary. "You 



176 MRS. PBDERSON'S NIECE. 

might be sure it was something more than 
trivial which brought me out at this 
hour." 

In a few words she explained Hilary's 
presence and what she hoped Mrs. Vision might 
be able to do for her. 

There was no small pride about Agnes Vision. 
She thanked her aunt, and agreed that it would 
be a pecuniary advantage to her to let some 
of her rooms. She offered at once to show 
the girl those at her disposal, and led the way 
into the house. 

Nothing could have been in greater contrast 
to the "Select Establishment" under the roof 
of which Hilary had spent the past seven 
months than Mead Cottage. It showed in 
every detail the influence of a refined and 
cultured mistress. The furniture was simple, but 
the best of its kind, and save for the ferns 
and flowers on every side, there was that 
absence of ornamentation which is often the 
highest form of art 

Two bedrooms and a pleasant little sitting- 
room, looking out on the garden and the fir 
wood beyond, were offered the girl at a price 
so well within her means that she gladly agreed 
to take them. Mrs. Vision promised that they 



A COTTAGE IN A WOOD. 177 

should be ready for her at the end ol the 
following week, when the girl's work with Mr. 
Hilder began. 

"I shall love to be here, Mrs. Vision," 
Hilary said impulsively. "Your house seems 
more like home to me than any place I have 
been in since I left Madame Bran's. I feel" 
she hesitated, and laughed shyly " I feel as 
though I could breathe here. In London, it is 
often so difficult to aspire and respire at the 
same time." 

"I know; I have felt that," said Mrs. 
Vision, laying her large, shapely hand on 
the girl's shoulder as they stood together 
in the little square hall. Some women would 
have kissed the frank, radiant face, but she 
was not one who gave kisses readily, and dis- 
liked people who used them, like asterisks, to 
fill up awkward places in a conversation. "I 
think we shall understand each other; though, 
since I am going away and your engagement 
is a short one, we may not see much of one 
another. I am glad to think you are coming 
under my roof" 

"And I am more than glad," cried Hilary 
impetuously. "It will make up for so much I 
can never explain. There is something about 



178 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

Meadham and the people in it that sweetens 
the mind. I may hope now to keep my taste 
for the best things; I used to think it was 
impossible to lose it, but I know now it is 
astonishingly easy." 

Mrs. Vision looked at her intently. There 
was something more behind that laughing face 
and that frank, boyish manner than she had 
suspected. 

" The struggle repays, child, never doubt 
that," she said quickly. "The most finely 
tempered steel is that which passes the severest 
tests. In the moral as well as the physical 
world, the survival of the fittest is the law 
upon which the whole fabric of ethics is 
built." 

Hilary sighed. So far from feeling that her 
own afflictions had been a means of edification, 
she had never seemed to herself so weak and 
faulty as during the last few months. Emotions 
and failings never suspected in serener days had 
come to light and shamed her. She was too 
young and too little given to introspection to 
know that it was only through growth she had 
come now to discover them. More light means 
more revelatory power. Her character had 
strengthened, and her moral fibre become finer 



A COTTAGE IN A WOOD. 179 

through the troubles she had borne of late. 
She saw things to which once her eyes were 
holden. 

As she travelled back to London, she began 
to wonder how her aunt would regard the step 
she had taken. It was impossible but that Mrs. 
Pederson should object to leave town. Hilary, 
however, hoped to convince her that it was the 
wisest and indeed the only possible step. Her 
taking of the sovereigns from Hilary's purse had 
practically put it out of her power to refuse to 
accompany her niece. 

Hilary might leave her, and thereby give up 
her right to the legacy left her by Major 
Pederson, but no dividends were due for months, 
and Mrs. Bateson would not consent to keep 
Mrs. Pederson without any payments. Hilary 
hoped and confidently believed that she could 
persuade her aunt to come to Meadham, without 
using her dependence as a handle, and she 
meant to spare no pains to do it. Yet if Mrs. 
Pederson absolutely refused to come, the girl 
told herself that now she would be justified in 
leaving her. The life at Mrs. Bateson's had 
become impossible, and she was right in accept- 
ing the clean and wholesome path of honour- 
able work which was open to her. She would 



i8o MRS. PsDERSorfs NIECE. 

certainly have Frances on her side, and she 
resolved at the first opportunity to go to Skone 
Street and tell her friend what she had 
arranged. 



CHAPTER XIV. 

A CADMEAN VICTORY. 

IT was dusk when Hilary reached Tozer Street, 
the dusk of a spring evening in town, grey and 
dull. 

Mrs. Bateson opened the door as though 
she had been on the watch. 

" It is all right ; I come home crowned with 
success, so congratulate me, you dear woman,'" 
Hilary cried, anticipating her eager question. 
"No, I won't have any tea, thank you. I, 
shall just have time to dress for dinner and 
explain my absence to Aunt Sophie. I suppose 
she is still upstairs." 

Mrs. Bateson puckered her forehead and 
looked worried. 

"She has not come back yet, my dear 1 ; she 
went out unbeknowst to me directly after 
luncheon. A gentleman called twice this after- 
noon to see her, and told Sarah he had an 
appointment Miss Kemsing came a while ago, 
too, and she is waiting upstairs in your room." 

Hilary looked troubled as she ran upstairs. 



1 82 MRS. PEDER SON'S NIECE. 

She wished she had asked Mrs. Bateson for a 
description of the visitor; she had a gloomy 
conviction that it could be no other than Chivers 
Smith. 

Frances was sitting reading in the light of 
a small fire she had lighted, though in the 
Bateson establishment a fire in a bedroom was 
a luxury only justified by dire extremity. 

"Well, you and the mater are in festive 
mood to-day, my good child," she said, 
rising and saluting the newcomer. "I arrive 
anxious to know how you are surviving the 
barbarities of this place, and find that the mater 
has not been home since luncheon and that no 
one has seen you since the screech of dawn. It 
was lucky I brought my anatomy books with me 
or I could not have waited. Get a light, please, 
before you disrobe. I know you have a weakness 
for the gloaming, but I hate it. As Charles 
Lamb once said, it's so inconvenient to have to 
feel your companion's face for the responsive 
smile." 

Hilary laughed, but the laugh did not ring 
so blithely as usual, and Frances looked up at 
her sharply. 

"What is the matter, Hilary? You look 
tired, and you are positively getting thin. 



A CADMEAN VICTORY. 183 

know man is born to trouble as the sparks fly 
upward and that we girls cannot expect to es- 
cape our share, but has anything fresh occurred ? " 

Hilary shook her head as she stretched and 
straightened her gloves thoughtfully. Suddenly 
she looked at Frances with a whimsical smile 
curving her mouth. 

" Like Noph, I have distresses daily, but I 
have taken desperate measures to escape them 
altogether. I am going to surprise you, Frances." 

"My dear child, it is the way of the foolish 
to confound the wise," Frances said languidly. " If 
you can explain your meaning without being 
too oracular, please do so." 

Hilary dropped on the hearthrug at Frances' 
feet. 

"I'll burst the fact on you without preface 
or preamble. I have this day arranged to 
leave 'Bateson's Select Establishment/ and to 
take up my abode in a sleepy little village in 
Hertfordshire, named Meadham." 

"I always knew you hankered after fresh 
fields and pastures new, but I thought it was 
a question of pounds, shillings and pence," said 
Frances. 

" Yes, it could not be done on ninety pounds 
a year, nor could we stay here under the same 



1 84 MRS. PEDER SON'S NIECE. 

luxurious conditions. I am going to add to 
our fortune by my own exertions. Behold me 
the secretary of a literary man, engaged to 
assist in the production of an epoch-making 
work on French and German folk-tales. The 
whole business is settled, even to the secondary 
matter of lodgings. The only detail to be filled 
in is the breaking of the news to Aunt Sophie 
and the gaining of her consent to this radical 
change in our fortunes." 

Frances leaned back in her chair and let her 
beloved "Anatomy" slide unheeded to the floor. 

''Well, for independence and sheer audacity 
commend me to Hilary Pederson 1 To go and 
do such a thing without consulting a soul 1 
Of course, I would not have allowed you to 
do it. You should have had half my princely 
income. I would even have extended to the 
mater the shelter of my palatial roof, though 
she would be a dreadful person to have about 
one, when one happened to be undergoing a 
mental strain. And, pray, what sort of a man 
is this for whom you have agreed to drudge ?" 

Hilary leaned back, her hands clasped behind 
her head, pressing forward her loose wavy hair, 
as she studied the cracked, discoloured ceiling. 

"I can guess the sort of man you are pic- 



A CADMEAN VICTORY. 185 

turing," she said gaily. "A wide experience 
of learned professors has taught you to know 
the type ; but you will be hopelessly at fault 
on this occasion. My professor happens to be 
a young man of thirty or so quite the most 
charming age for a man, isn't it ? All men 
ought to be thirty. I should say he was hand- 
some, though when you are shown only the 
lower part of a face it is rather difficult to 
be sure. Did I tell you that he was suffering 
with his eyes and remained hidden behind a 
green shade ? Hence the need for my services." 
She ended with a little laugh, in which Frances 
could not help joining. 

"Is there anything on earth you can be 
serious about, Hilary ? " she exclaimed. 

"If there is anything on earth the better 
for being whined about, tell me/' Hilary re- 
plied quickly. 

Frances shrugged her shoulders. "Perhaps 
you are right. I learned long ago that the 
things one cries over are seldom worth it 
There's nothing satisfies like work." 

At this moment a heavy step was heard 
on the stairs, and a voice called Hilary A 
minute later Mrs. Bateson opened the door and 
looked in with an agitated face. 



1 86 MRS. PEDERSON' s NIECE. 

"Please come down, my dears, do," she 
said. " Mr. Bradbrook has brought poor Mrs. 
Pederson home in a cab. He says he found 
her in a faint somewhere up the Marble Arch 
way. She had slipped getting off a bus, he 
said, and the fright made her a bit queer. She 
looks bad now, poor dear." 

The girls flew down the stairs. Halfway they 
met Mr. Bradbrook assisting the fainting woman 
to her own room with a skill and kindliness which 
made Hilary regret that she had constantly 
snubbed his efforts towards friendliness. 

"No cause for alarm, Miss Pederson," he 
said cheerfully. "The old lady will be as right 
as a trivet when you get her into her own bed. 
A good meal and a night's rest will mend all 
that's wrong. Slipping off a bus when you have 
been trapesing about all day without a good 
square meal, is apt to try the strongest of us." 

Mrs. Pederson was too worn out to resent 
these personalities on the part of a young man 
she cordially detested. She allowed herself to 
be half carried, half dragged up the steep stair- 
case, and resigned herself unprotestingly into the 
hands of Hilary and Frances. The younger girl 
lingered a moment at the door to thank Mr. 
Bradbrook for his kindness. 



A CADMEAN VICTORY. 187 

"Don't mention it, please, Miss Hilary. 
Isn't Mrs. Bateson always telling us we are 
one family ? and relations are bound to stand 
by one another in little mishaps," he said 
airily. " I'd do a sight more to ease the 
burdens on your shoulders. Sam Bradbrook 
can see as far through a stone wall as most 
people, and the old lady leans rather heavy on 
you." 

Hilary stiffened and her colour rose. Oh, 
why could they not be kind without inter- 
meddling in her private worries ? She opened 
her lips to reply, then turned away quickly, 
entered the room, and shut the door behind her. 

The insurance agent stood for a minute look- 
ing after her, whistling softly. 

" Poor little girl ! it hurts her to be under an 
obligation to a third-class fellow like Sam 
Bradbrook," he said. "He ain't her sort, I 
suppose. It must be a bit of a nuisance to 
be poor and proud if you are forced to herd 
with common mortals." 

Mrs. Pederson had recovered somewhat when 
Hilary entered. She was sitting before the fire, 
stretching out her thin hands to the blaze. 

"It's an attack of the heart, Miss Kemsing 
says," whispered Mrs. Bateson sympathetically. 



1 88 MRS. PEDERSON' s NIECE. 

" It's lucky Miss Kemsing was here, for she is 
three parts a doctor and knows what to do. 
I wish I could stay with you, but I must run 
down and serve the dinner. Folks must feed 
whatever happens. It's the one thing that never 
stands aside for other people's troubles." 

She bustled away, and Hilary came and 
knelt down beside her aunt. " Do you feel 
better, dear ? " she said gently. " You must have 
gone far to tire yourself so much." 

" Far I I don't remember," Mrs. Pederson 
said dully. "It was something important took 
me out. I had to go. I can't remember now 
why I went" 

" Don't try to remember, mother ; it is bad 
for you to worry yourself," Frances said 
soothingly. 

" Why should you interfere ? " Mrs. Pederson 
retorted sharply. "It is a matter which con- 
cerns only Hilary and me, Frances. You have 
no lot nor part in my private business." 

Frances looked away quickly. She owned 
that it was just for Hilary to take the first 
place in her mother's confidences. She had 
deliberately withdrawn herself from participa- 
tion in them. Yet those few minutes spent 
alone with her mother, using her skill to 



A CADMEAN VICTORY. 189 

alleviate her mother's pain, had taught the girl 
that she loved her better than she guessed. She 
was honestly glad to make the discovery, and 
would have rejoiced had Mrs. Pederson shown 
any desire for her help and presence. Yet 
it was to Hilary the invalid turned when she 
recovered full consciousness, and for Hilary she 
reserved her confidences. Well, it was best 
so, perhaps ; she, Frances, had her own work to 
do, work which taxed all her faculties, absorbed 
all her thoughts, and demanded her whole 
future. 

It was not till an hour after, when Frances 
had gone away and Hilary was seated by the 
bed, bathing the invalid's forehead and fanning 
her gently, that Mrs. Pederson told what had 
taken her out that day. 

"I'm a wicked woman, Hilary, and you had 
better go away and leave me," she said 
hysterically. "Paul Kemsing has offered you a 
home, you had better go to him. I can't live 
like this, and it is no use for me to try. I 
can't live without money ; and I won't either, 
when there's so many ways of making it. I 
promised you that I would not go to Chivers 
Smith again, but it was a stupid promise to 
make. He says the Bultang Gold Mine is 



190 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

paying magnificent dividends, and I'm a fool not 
to borrow a few hundreds of him and put in it." 

"Surely you have not been borrowing 
again, Aunt Sophie ? " Hilary asked, her heart 
feeling like lead. "You promised me, you 
know." 

Mrs. Pederson plucked at the counterpane 
nervously. " I went out to-day, Hilary, because I 
wouldn't see Chivers Smith. I have put a little 
money into one or two things of his a pound 
or two, nothing much, but I haven't borrowed. 
He was coming here to-day to arrange a loan." 

Hilary frowned. "He did call. He came 
twice, and seemed annoyed not to find you at 
home." 

Mrs. Pederson nodded drearily. " I had 
written asking him to call. I was sick of 
being without money, and the prospectus he 
sent was splendid. You need not look at me. 
as though I were not fit to breathe the same 
air as you, girl. I broke my promise in writing 
to him, but I did not see him, so no harm is 
done." 

"I'm not blaming you," Hilary said sadly. 
W I can see it is hard for you. But we must 
not borrow when we could never pay back, 
and there are .other ways," 



A CADMEAN VICTORY. 191 

"Yes, you can leave me and go to Paul 
Kemsing," said Mrs. Pederson slowly. " I don't 
expect you to stay with me, Hilary. It is a 
wretched life, and you are young. You will 
have to give up your income, but Paul will 
make it up to you. It is little enough, but I 
daresay Mrs. Bateson will keep me here and I 
shall manage. What does it matter how dull 
and lonely a wrecked life like mine may be. 
You had far better leave me to muddle along 
by myself." 

Hilary touched the claw-like hand on the 
edge of the counterpane gently. 

" No, no 1 I will not leave you," she said 
soothingly. "All will come right if you keep 
away from Chivers Smith and his horrid busi- 
ness. We will go away, Aunt Sophie, and be 
happy together. I have found a way ot making 
it quite possible." 

Mrs. Pederson lay back among the pillows 
and stared at her curiously. 

" What do you mean ? " she asked querulously. 
"I suppose the mystery has to do with your 
absence to-day. Mrs. Bateson said you had 
gone into the country." 

Hilary nodded. "I wonder whether you are 
well enough to hear my story now, or whether 



192 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

I had better reserve it till to-morrow," she said 
meditatively. "Frances said you were not to 
be worried about anything until you had had 
a night's rest." 

" I shall not sleep for hours, and it will 
amuse me to hear," Mrs. Pederson insisted. 
" What took you in the country ? " 

Hilary hesitated, scarcely knowing where to 
begin her story, and anxious to tell it in the 
most propitious manner. 

"I went to see a literary man who had 
advertised for a secretary," she said cheerfully. 
"Our money matters need instant adjustment, 
you know, and I thought it would be easier to 
earn a little than to retrench. I was engaged, 
and I have promised to enter on my duties 
next week." 

" Well, of all the unheard-of projects ! And 
to take such a step without saying a word to 
me I You are a bold girl, Hilary Pederson. 
May I ask how you propose to get to and 
from vour work each day ? It seems to me 
all your salary will be swallowed up in rail- 
way fares. And what am I to do in your 
prolonged absence, pray ? " 

" Dear Aunt Sophie, Meadham is miles and 
miles away. I could not possibly go daily. I 



A C ADM RAN VICTORY. 193 

shall live there, and I hope you will promise 
to come with me. It is the sweetest place, and 
I have got charming rooms. We should be 
tremendously happy, and quite out of the 
reach of that odious man, Smith." 

"Never! Nothing shall induce me to bury 
myself alive in any country village," cried Mrs. 
Pederson. "You may go if you like, Hilary, 
but not one penny of your ninety pounds can 
you touch unless you remain with me." 

Hilary said nothing. She always found it 
wisest to allow the torrent of her aunt's wrath 
to roll on unchecked. To-night, physical 
weakness soon reduced it to a purling stream of 
complaint and protest. It occurred to Mrs. 
Pederson, later, that her own indiscretion 
in abstracting the sovereigns from Hilary's 
purse had placed her in an awkward position 
as regards the future. She was shrewd enough 
to know that in Hilary's absence Mrs. Bateson 
would not be willing to keep her unless she 
could pay the weekly bill, and it was certain 
that there would be no more dividends where- 
with to pay that bill for many weeks. 

" Don't ask me to decide to-night. I'm 
worn out and sick of everything," she said at 
last. "You can go away and leave me in 



194 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

peace. Yes, go away and talk to your Mrs. 
Bateson, who always knows more of your plans 
than your stupid old aunt does." 

She turned her face to the wall and shut 
her eyes. Hilary stood for a moment irresolute. 
Though she was firmly convinced of her own 
wisdom in this matter, she felt that she had 
gained a Cadmean victory; the pain was equal 
on each side. She stooped and kissed the grey, 
wrinkled face. 

" Poor Aunt Sophie ! I hate to do anything 
you do not like," she said remorsefully. "Try 
to sleep now, dear ; things always look brighter 
in the morning." 

Aunt Sophie did not deign to notice this 
remark, and Hilary slipped quietly away. 



CHAPTER XV. 

QUITE AN OCCASION. 

MRS. PEDERSON had this redeeming quality, 
she always resigned herself to the inevitable 
with fairly good grace. She was clever enough 
to see that Hilary had commonsense and right 
on her side, and though she grumbled loudly 
at circumstances, she recognised the wisdom of 
submitting to them. She told Hilary next day 
that she would go with her to Meadham, and 
set herself to convince the boarders that failing 
health and the third-rateness of "Bateson's 
Select Establishment" had decided her to try 
country air and more refined quarters. 

" My health is not what it was," she in- 
formed Miss Heckler languidly. "This place 
was possible for a time when my affairs were 
in disorder, but it has told upon me. And I 
must think of Hilary, too ; a girl has no 
chances in a place of this kind, you know." 

"I quite agree with you, dear Mrs. 
Pederson ; she has no chance at all," replied 
Miss Heckler, with a toss of the head. "In 



196 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

London the labour market is quite overstocked, 
I am told. Our dear little Hilary will do far 
better in the provinces." 

Mrs. Pederson coloured angrily. "Spiteful 
thing 1 " she said to herself. " Hilary has not 
the slightest idea of keeping her own counsel. 
What need was there to tell these people that 
she is going to take a situation. I shall be 
glad to see the last of them all." 

She spent most of her last week in Tozer 
Street in her own room, appearing only at meals, 
when she cloaked herself in dignity and gave 
an undivided attention to the dishes. It was 
fortunate that the preparations for departure 
were few, for they fell entirely upon Hilary's 
shoulders. 

" It is your choice, not mine, this change of 
quarters, so it is only fair that you should do 
the packing," Mrs. Pederson said sulkily. 
"Goodness knows there is little enough to 
pack." 

"It's an ill wind that blows no one any 
good," laughed Hilary. "If I had a house to 
dismantle I should have no time to do a dozen 
things I have promised to do for the people 
in the house." She held up a bodice she was 
remodelling for Mrs. Bateson. "It will be one 



QUITE AN OCCASION. 197 

of my comforting reflections when I get to 
Meadham that dear little Mrs. Bateson is 
looking nicer than she has done ever since I 
knew her. This confection looks cosy and 
elderly now, but its colour and scantiness have 
assaulted my eyes for months." 

" How can you tolerate these people or 
bother about them ! " Mrs. Pederson said. 
" Mrs. Bateson gets on my nerves with her 
fussy, vulgar little ways." 

Hilary lifted her head impatiently, then 
she went on with her work without uttering 
the indignant protest which rose to her lips. 

"She is not vulgar, dear, only common- 
place," she said quietly. " I always feel that 
her real kindness to us covers a multitude of 
social lapses, and I shall be very sorry to leave 
her." 

"She has been paid for all she has done," 
Mrs. Pederson insisted. "You can't deny that 
she is an atrocious manager and the service is 
abominable. I hope to goodness our next land- 
lady will know how to behave herself and to 
keep her house." 

Hilary laughed mischievously. In imagination 
she saw Mrs. Vision's grave Madonna face, her 
stately figure, and her graceful draperies. She 



1 98 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

would certainly know how to "behave herself," 
but Hilary was not quite sure that she would 
please Aunt Sophie any better than vulgar, 
good-tempered little Mrs. Bateson had done. 

Half an hour later she carried the finished 
bodice down to Mrs. Bateson's room. 

Mrs. Bateson was in the throes of menu 
writing, and gladly relinquished the task to the 
girl whilst she tried the effect of the new 
"confection" and pronounced it "beautiful, if a 
shade too high in the neck for the ways of the 
house." 

" I shall wear it to-night, for I've an idea 
that the boarders are going to make this evening, 
your very last evening, quite an occasion," she 
said mysteriously. "No one is dining out, and 
Mr. Bradbrook asked me to put a specially good 
dinner on the table. It is to be quite an occa- 
sion, I'm sure." 

Hilary laughed merrily. " How alarming ! 
But Aunt Sophie will be pleased, though it may 
make her more and more disinclined for the 
quietness of rural little Meadham." 

As Mrs. Bateson had hinted, it was the 
intention of the rest of the boarders to make 
this last evening the Pedersons spent under the 
roof of the boarding-house something of a 



QUITE AN OCCASION. 199 

festival. There was not one who did not regret 
Hilary's departure, and she forgave all the 
queer little ways which had often jarred 
for the sake of the sincere and hearty kindness 
showered upon her now. Miss Heckler had 
learned a new song, and Mr. Bradbrook an 
absolutely new joke, whilst Miss Bird laid aside 
her cynicism, and petted and made much of her 
when they went up to the drawing-room. 

"You will come and see us whenever you 
are in town, Miss Pederson," she said, under 
cover of the loud music which never impeded 
conversation or seemed to ask for an audience. 
"You will be sure to find me here. 'Men 
may come and men may go, but I stay on for 
ever.' It's a ridiculous place if you look at it 
from some points, but it's convenient, and you 
are never bothered about rules and conven- 
tionalities. You might give me your address, 
and if I am ever in your part of the country, 
I will look you up. I expect you will be 
dull enough after having lived in town. You 
are going to do secretary's work, are you not ? 
If you ever take to scribbling and nearly 
everybody does some time or other nowadays 
you just write to me. I'll do my best to get 
you a column in one of the weeklies, for a 



2OO MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

start ; ' Hints to Mothers ' or ' How to Bring 
up your Sons/ or something of that sort. I 
know lots of girls who have begun like that and 
are doing well in a small way." 

Hilary laughed, and thanked her. She had 
not the least intention of enlisting as an adviser 
in matters of which she knew herself con- 
spicuously ignorant, and she had absolutely no 
literary ambitions. 

"Well, if you change your mind, write to 
me," replied Miss Bird, as Mr. Bradbrook came 
up to claim Hilary's attention for a new puzzle 
he had invented. 

" It's too simple to engage you a couple of 
minutes," he said jocosely. "I'm too distraught 
at your desertion of us to originate anything 
clever. I can't fancy 'Bateson's Select' without 
you now, really I can't. You'll find me at Mead- 
ham one morning begging you, in the name of the 
assembled boarders, to come back to us. The 
milkmaid there are always milkmaids in the 
country, I believe will find me hanging ovei 
the gate at the screech of dawn." 

"You talk a lot of nonsense, Mr. Brad- 
brook," Hilary said, severely. "Though, if ever 
you come to Meadham, I am sure we shall 
be pleased to see you," she added, smiling 



QutTE AN OCCASION. 201 

"You need not make yourself conspicuous by 
hanging, for an indefinite time, over the gate." 
Hilary did not resent Mr. Bradbrook's familiarities 
and his perpetual jokes, as she had once done. 
It was as foolish to do so as to quarrel with 
the shape of his nose or the commonplaceness 
of his florid, good-tempered face. She had 
learned the folly of insisting that everyone she 
met should be a hero in embryo, and had come to 
accept the fact that most were kindly, ordinary 
creatures, anxious to do their work in the 
world, with no desires which outstripped their 
opportunities, and no cravings that went to ship- 
wreck on the rocks of circumstance. She was 
even glad it was so ; she had grown a little 
afraid of the lives which threatened to run on 
unconventional lines. 

" I say, are you genuine in that ? You 
wouldn't mind if I biked down some Bank 
Holiday ? " the young man said, with evident 
pleasure, tinged with surprise. " Mrs. P. won't 
much like it, but if you give me a permit I'll 
face her displeasure. Shall I make it the first 
holiday that comes along ? " 

Hilary nodded. "If Aunt Sophie's predic- 
tions come true, long before then the stagnation 
of Meadham will have reduced her to a con- 



2O2 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

dition of dulness when she will welcome her 
worst enemy with effusion." 

Bradbrook made his appearance next morning 
as the luggage was being piled on a cab and 
Mrs. Pederson was showering good-byes right 
and left. They fell like the dew of heaven, 
alike on those she liked and disliked; she was 
too glad to turn her back on Tozer Street to 
care to discriminate. Her effusiveness received 
no check when Bradbrook presented himself at 
the door of the cab and held out a bouquet of 
phenomenal proportions. 

"A small token of esteem and all that sort 
of thing," he said airily, proffering the token. 
" You can hold it out of the window if it gets 
too whiffy, but don't refuse it, or you'll hurt the 
sensitive feelings of S. J. B." 

Mrs. Pederson accepted the offering with 
becks and wreathed smiles. " How delightful of 
you to think of such a thing, Mr. Bradbrook," 
she said coquettishly. "Such a royal way of 
setting anyone off!" 

"Sweets to the sweet," replied the young 
man, beaming expansively. "Tell me I may 
come to see you in your new place and I'll 
bring you a posy that will put that one in the 
shade." 



QUITE AN OCCASION. 203 

"Of course you may come. "We shall be 
delighted to see you," Mrs. Pederson declared; 
and then there was more waving of hand- 
kerchiefs and last words to those gathered on 
the steps. 

Hilary leaned back in her corner of the cab 
with eyes which were too dim to see much 
that was going on. She had said her good- 
byes earlier and her heart was too sore to go 
over them again. It was characteristic of her 
to give herself so unstintedly to those with 
whom her lot was cast, that parting, after ever 
so short a time, was like leaving something ot 
herself behind. She watched Mrs. Pederson, and 
marvelled at the effusiveness she expended on 
those she openly declared herself glad to turn 
her back upon. There was something in Hilary 
which, then and always, revolted against the 
least shadow of deceit, the making and acting 
even of a social lie. 



CHAPTER XVI. 

FAIRMEAD. 

HILARY often said, and with justice, that she 
had been specially favoured by fortune at this 
crisis of her life. Her coming to Meadham 
always glowed as a bright spot in a life in 
which the sunshine far exceeded the cloud. It 
was the point from which all that was happiest 
in after days radiated. She entered upon her 
duties with that enthusiasm which refuses to 
see disagreeables, and took an interest in her 
work which delighted her employer. 

Max Hilder possessed the happy art of 
infecting others with his own enthusiasms, and 
Hilary was an apt pupil. Sometimes she told 
herself that she did so little and learned so 
much that it seemed ridiculous to take wages 
and to pretend that she was earning her living. 
She had never been so happy in her life as she 
was when sitting at the table in the pleasant 
sunshiny library at Fairmead, writing from 
Mr. Hilder's dictation, or reading to him, or 
even, as she gained courage and grew to know 



FAIRMEAD. 205 

him better, discussing with him the details of 
his work. 

There were hours, certainly, which did 
not pass smoothly. At times Hilder chafed 
under his disability, and found Hilary's eyes 
could not do all that his own might have done. 
He grew inwardly depressed, and despaired 
over a progress which seemed lamentably slow; 
then the young secretary felt the sting of 
sarcasm and the lash of an impatient spirit. As 
the weeks slipped away these dark hours 
became rarer; the girl did her work better, 
and the man fell under the magic influence of 
her generous warm-heartedness and her obvious 
desire to please. 

When her morning's work was done Hilary 
always lunched in the pleasant morning-room with 
Mrs. Hilder. Both enjoyed these little tdte-&-t$te 
meals. They afforded Mrs. Hilder what seldom 
had come into her life hitherto, an interested 
and untiring listener. So few people cared 
for long conversations on the only topic it 
really pleased her to talk upon her son, his 
charming childhood, the brilliance of his school 
and college career, his manifold virtues and his 
wonderful successes. 

The greater part of the old lady's life had 



2o6 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

been spent in a loneliness which no one seemed 
to have fathomed. Widowed after two years of 
married life, she had lived ever since at Fair- 
mead, absorbed at first in the growth of her 
infant son, living later for the radiant intervals 
of the schoolboy's holidays, then in the hope 
that, when his terms at Oxford were over, he 
would be with her altogether. That time never 
came. Love of travel and a passion for 
Teutonic folklore gripped the young man. 
The months he spent at Fairmead became 
fewer, whilst he passed his time wandering 
among the less-known German villages and 
mountain hamlets, gathering material for the 
book which was beginning to engross his 
thoughts. Some people blamed him roundly 
for his neglect of his home and his mother, 
and doubted his devotion to her. Mrs. Hilder 
never did; she loved him and understood that, 
to the young, it seems natural that the old 
should bide at home. They had had their day 
of storm and stress, and could desire nothing 
more than to live monotonous lives in the 
backwaters of existence. Only time teaches 
the young that hearts ache and love demands 
fulfilment, even though the hair be white and the 
wrinkles of age are thick about the faded eyes. 



FAIRMEAD. 207 

Max thought of it all later, when she became 
the active and he the passive factor in their 
life together. 

From the first Mrs. Hilder had delighted 
in Hilary's introduction into the quiet life at 
Fairmead. There was nothing small or mean 
about this simple, unconventional old gentle- 
woman. She saw that the girl was bringing 
a new element into her son's life, giving it a 
sparkle and gaiety she was too old to give it 
herself, and she was frankly glad. Being a 
woman, she was bound to look forward at 
times and wonder if this daily intercourse of 
man and maid would make for their happiness 
or sorrow. Would the autumn see Max a 
whole man again and Hilary slipping out of 
the life she did so much to brighten ? Im- 
possible to forecast Mrs. Hilder shook her 
head as she knitted in the twilight and decided 
that such things gained nothing by the inter- 
meddling of a third party. She was content to 
wait and hope. Hilary was a daughter any mother 
might be proud to claim, but if Max did not 
find her dear and desirable, well, the gentle old 
lady hoped that Providence would take care 
of the young girl's heart and let the autumn 
find her fancy-free. 



208 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

Hilary would have been the first to own 
that her happiest hours were spent at Fairmead. 
At the Cottage she had plenty of that vexation 
of spirit which is said to be excellent discipline 
for heart and temper. 

Mrs. Pederson never for a moment concealed 
her dislike for Meadham, nor her sense of 
the injustice of fortune which, by the hand 
of Hilary, had transplanted her thither. The 
change, indeed, fell more heavily upon her 
than anyone stopped to consider. She missed 
everything which used to give savour to her 
days, and the long weeks stretched before her 
in an unbroken vista of dulness. Even the 
minor annoyances, which at least had given her 
something to talk about, were taken from her. 

In retrospect, life at "Bateson's Select 
Establishment" was infinitely preferable, and 
she entertained wild projects of returning, 
whether Hilary consented or not. There was 
never a moment when she would not willingly 
have exchanged the beauty and freshness of 
Meadham for the smuttiness of London squares. 

Hilary's heart smote her sometimes when she 
caught sight of the unhappy face and the limp, 
depressed figure at the window, and would 
coax her aunt to share some of her own 



FAIRMEAD. 209 

amusements. But Mrs. Pederson declared 
herself sick of aimless bicycle rides and purpose- 
less walks along dreary lanes. She sighed for 
the joys of Oxford Street, and the excitement 
of capturing bargains in the autumn sales. 

Hilary gave up the attempt to make 
Meadham a joyous place to her, and was 
thankful that she did not insist on going back 
to a more congenial sphere, as it was clearly in 
her power to do. Hilary herself had not a 
dull or idle moment. When she was not at 
Fairmead, she was out of doors, rowing on the 
little river, flying along the leafy lanes on her 
bicycle, or rambling in the woods with an escort 
of village children. She had made a score of 
friends among the cottagers, and tried to interest 
Mrs. Pederson in their humble neighbours. 
That lady absolutely refused to see anything 
worthy ot attention in the old women, with 
their dreary tales of their ailments, or in the 
aged men whose reminiscences dated back to 
days before she was born. She did not care a 
rap, she said, for their sons and daughters who 
had married and gone away, and wondered 
what Hilary found to amuse her in their 
tedious histories. Her eyes had never yet 
grown dim over the annals of the poor, never 



2io MRS. PEDER SON'S NIECB. 

had her heart swelled at the pitiful cry of the 
obscure and suffering. Little as she knew it, 
hers was a bitter loss, for the heart that cannot 
ache for the woes of others misses, too, the 
finest joys this world can give. 

Mrs. Pederson deserved more pity than 
anyone gave her in these days. Age can 
seldom, like the olive, throw out young shoots 
from the old bole, and hers had never been 
a fertile or resourceful mind. To rob her of 
accustomed duties and pleasures was to leave 
her life empty and purposeless. She was 
extremely and increasingly unhappy, and, in 
consequence, extremely and increasingly irrit- 
able. 

Hilary was by nature so self-reliant and 
contented that she seldom regretted any step 
she took. If she had acted wisely, it was well ; 
if she had made a mistake, it was of no use to 
vex oneself about it afterwards. It was a 
comfortable point of view, and saved much 
vexation of spirit Yet, later, she wondered 
if she had not been heedless and too much 
taken up with her own doings at this time. 
She had certainly been apt to overlook the 
tediousness of Aunt Sophie's existence. It is so 
easy, when we feel that we have done the right 



FAIRMEAD. 211 

thing, to believe that all its consequences must 
be of the pleasantest also. 

Once Mr. Bradbrook cycled down to 
Meadham and was received with an effusiveness 
which surprised him. He did not know that 
Mrs. Pederson's pleasure in seeing him was 
mainly the backwash of her desire to see any 
face that reminded her of London and the old 
life. 



CHAPTER XVII. 
"LET us FORGET TO BE WISE." 

To Hilary this was the shortest summer of her 
life. The days slipped away, and she would 
gladly have clogged the whetils of time had she 
been able. It required more grace than she 
possessed to welcome the golden and russet 
beauty of the autumn. 

She had been well aware, when she came 
to Meadham, that her engagement was but a 
temporary one, but she had never anticipated that 
it would be such a grief to look forward to its 
termination. She viewed her removal to some 
other sphere of labour with a sinking of the heart 
Mrs. Pederson would never have understood. 

Hilary shared to the full Mrs. Hilder's 
anxiety for the success of the operation for 
which Mr. Hilder was going to Germany, but 
she did not not let herself dwell on what that 
success would mean to her. 

She had promised to remain at Meadham 
until they returned to Fairmead, but, after that, 
life looked anything but roseate. 



"LET US FORGET TO BE W/SS." 21 3 

On the evening of the day preceding that 
fixed for the departure of mother and son 
for Wiesbaden, Hilary was standing in the 
drawing-room at Fairmead, dressed for dinner. 
Mrs. Vision had returned unexpectedly from her 
visit, and Mrs. Hilder had invited the little 
party from the Cottage to dine. It was to be 
what Mrs. Bateson termed "an occasion," and 
the toast was to be " Success to the under- 
taking," drunk in champagne Max had himself 
brought from abroad. 

Mrs. Vision and Aunt Sophie had not yet 
arrived, and the girl moved about the room 
restlessly, taking up a book or burying her 
face in a bowl of fragrant roses, trying by one 
means or another to forget that the occasion 
wae one in which regret was mixed with her 

joy. 

"They ought to be here immediately," she 
said absently. "It isn't like Aunt Sophie to be 
late at an important function, and she regards 
this as quite an event." 

She went to the window and stepped out 
on the terrace. As she crossed the sill she 
started and the colour rushed to her cheeks. 
Mr. Hilder was leaning against a pillar, and 
looked up with a smile. Hilary might well be 



214 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

startled. For the first time since she came to 
Meadham, she saw him without the disfiguring 
bandage and the green shade. His eyes, a clear, 
dark brown, in which she could detect no sign 
;of disease, looked straight into hers with a 
steady, keen, and scrutinising gaze. 

"Mr. Hilder, ought you to be here, and 
without your shade ? " she exclaimed quickly. 
" Is it wise ? Is it right ? Suppose you are 
endangering the success of the operation." 

He laughed softly. " Then you have learned 
to ' look before and after,' " he said. " This is 
my last evening. Who knows what may happen 
before I stand here again ? Let us forget to be 
wise for once." 

Hilary shook her head. " I could have told 
you that it is a golden evening, and that Mead- 
ham looks lovely as ever. There is nothing so 
unusual at home and abroad that you need risk 
anything to see it," she said practically. " Please 
let me arrange your shade." 

He shook his head, and moved a step nearer 
to the girl. 

" Do you know, little comrade, what I was 
thinking of as I stood here ? Not of the 
long, strait road I shall have to tread if 
Pagenstecher fails I can make up my mind to 



" LET US FORGET TO BE WlSE." 21$ 

that I was thinking that there were a few 
things I would, if I could, take with me into that 
darkness. You have helped me so much, little 
comrade, since you came into my life, that it 
seemed ridiculous I should go down into the 
valley of shadows and that you should be only 
a voice to me. I told myself that, come what 
might, I would see you once." He spoke 
rapidly, as if he were almost afraid of himself, 
taking in all the time the graceful young figure, 
the clustering brown hair, and the starry eyes, 
with a hungry, wistful look, which went to the 
girl's heart. 

"Whatever comes now, I shall know you 

now as you are, child ; and who can tell what 

may betide ? " 

Hilary's heart beat fast and her lips trembled. 
" It must be success it shall be I " she cried 

under her breath. She was one of those to 

whom hope is always so much easier than 

despair. "Please don't be despondent, Mr. 

Hilder ; Pagenstecher can't fail ; it would be too 

cruel. Don't, don't give up hope." 

" I will not," he said quietly. " At least, 

one may as well hope to the end. I shall 

find you here when I come back, you have 

promised me ? " 



216 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

Hilary nodded. Then a sound of voices 
was heard in the room behind them, and Mrs. 
Hilder's face was framed in the window. 

The young man moved away quickly, and 
when he appeared in the drawing-room the fc 
familiar bandage had been readjusted. 

Though the little dinner party passed off 
without any mishap, and the meal was perfect, 
a shadow was upon the five diners which no 
efforts on their part could lift. Mrs. Pederson, 
who had never dined before at Fairmead, and 
had been filled with delight at the invitation, 
voted the evening scarcely less dull than those 
she passed at the Cottage, whilst Mrs. Vision 
exerted herself in vain to entertain the rest with 
reminiscences of her stay abroad. 

All were glad when the hands of the clock 
pointed to ten, and they could part without any 
show of impolite haste. 

For a moment, before starting for the cottage, 
Hilary found herself alone in the hall with Max 
Hilder. He could not see her, but his ears, 
quickened because they had had to serve so 
often for eye, told him that she was near, and he 
held out his hand. 

"This is good-bye in a sense that it seldom 
is," he said, smiling faintly. "You will never 



" LET US FORGET TO BE WlSE." 2 1/ 

meet the same Max Hilder, little comrade. I 
shall come back in a few weeks' time, but 
another man. I shall be a whole man, able to 
take my place with my fellows and to enjoy the 
birthright of a man, or I shall come home a 
derelict, cut off from all that constitutes the chief 
joy of life." 

Hilary looked at him with trouble and a 
little indignation in her face. "You used not 
to talk like this, Mr. Hilder," she said wist- 
fully. 

"I used not to feel like this," he replied 
bitterly. "Only living teaches one what one 
wants and what one cannot have. If I come 
back uncured, I shall have said good-bye to 
what man prizes most; I shall be cut off 
from what seems to me now the most desirable 
thing in the world." 

The girl frowned. She did not like this 
bitter, despondent man, as she had done the 
bright, brave, debonair Max, who had treated 
his affliction as though it were not. He 
seemed lowered, but he touched her heart none 
the less deeply. 

"I do not know what you mean," she said 
wistfully. "Why dwell on that side of the 
question ? Think of other things ; if you are 



218 MRS. PEDER SON'S NIECB. 

cut off from what seems dear and desirable, are 
you not cut off too from troubles other men 
suffer, troubles old as mankind : the unsparing 
war of grinding poverty, the struggle for dearly 
bought food, precarious honour, perils and pitfalls, 
and the poor rewards of many ? In trouble it 
helps, I think, to look at the troubles of others, 
at horrors which can never come near us. I have 
seen some sides of poverty which have made 
me hot and ashamed. I have often thought it 
was better to lose a limb or a sense than, 
having all these, to sink into such sordid 
poverty, meanness and disgrace as I have 
seen." 

"Little comrade, there are some things a 
man cannot teach himself to relinquish with- 
out long and bitter struggle," he said sadly. 
"God grant that I come back a whole 
man." 

"Come back as you may, you will be the 
same to me," Hilary said softly. "And in the 
fight you will conquer; with sword broken, 
but unbroken courage." 

He touched her hand lightly with his lips, 
and left her to join her aunt, whose voice was 
heard on the staircase. 

Next morning mother and son left Meadham, 



* LET US FORGET TO BE WlSB? 21 9 

and a quietness settled on those left behind, 
which Hilary found harder to bear than 
anything she had yet been called to pass 
through. 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

A DISASTER. 

FRANCES, left behind in London, was working 
hard for her final. She was working far too 
hard, said her fellow-students, noting the colour- 
less skin, the wrinkles about her mouth, and 
the < unnatural brilliance of her dark eyes. They 
read the meaning of these by the light of past 
experience, and told each other that Frances 
Kemsing was making a mistake, and that it 
was a pity Ursula Grantham was away. It was 
clear that Frances wanted someone to look after 
her whose opinion she valued. 

Frances was secretly glad that Ursula was 
not at Skone Street just now. It would have 
been tiresome to be compelled to leave her 
work on this or that pretext, to be obliged 
to take the meals her friend insisted on pre- 
paring for her, or to be worried into retiring 
for the night just when the brain was growing 
hot and clear, and the work seemed most easy 
to grapple with. The night Ursula went home 
to nurse her dying father, Frances worked until 



A DISASTER. 221 

the dawn crept in at the east window, and for 
many a night after, the gas was not turned out 
till far into the small hours. 

She told herself exultingly that she was not 
suffering in the least through these long hours. 
Sleep was more and more easily banished, and 
she felt no weariness in the day, though she had 
closed her eyes only for a few hours. 

All the knowledge she had, jktfquired con- 
cerning brain and body had not taught the 
eager student that everything in this life has 
its price, and outraged nature will sooner or 
later demand heavy compensation. 

The evening before the examination one of 
the students made up a little party in her 
rooms, to celebrate the close of their long strain 
and to wish success to those who were going 
up on the morrow. She~ Basked Frances to join 
them, but the girl refused with something like 
horror. She thought it sheer madness to laugh 
and frolic away this last evening, and told her 
companions so; they might risk their chances 
of success if they liked, but she could not 
afford to do so. 

She went home to her lonely lodgings and 
worked till daybreak, reviewing and reassuring 
herself on weak points, feeling herself keener to 



222 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

grasp difficult questions, cooler to differentiate, 
than she had ever been, and gloriously sure of 
success. 

Day was breaking as she pushed together 
her pile of books, and leaned back in her chair 
to rest her cramped body. The clouds were 
breaking up before the coming of the sun, and 
a golden glow illumined the horizon. In the 
smokeless air of the early morning, over the 
sea of roofs, there was a strange, weird beauty 
in the wide vista. Frances had never paid 
much attention to natural beauties ; she had 
never in her life given more than a passing 
glance to sunrise or sunset, but as her tired eyes 
looked out on this wonder of grey and gold, 
a strange fascination and terror seized upon her. 
She saw clearly, and knew what it was she 
saw, and that there was nothing in the sight to 
inspire terror, but none the less it filled her with 
vague, awful horror, for which she could give no 
cause or reason. 

Only she knew that the sight unnerved her, 
and she clung to the edge of the table for 
support. She could not bear the dazzling sight, 
nor had she strength to look away. 

" Ursula I Hilary 1 My God 1 why am I 
alone ? " she cried. " I cannot bear to be alone ! " 



A DISASTER. 223 

At last she forced herself to move away, 
mechanically put on her hat, fled downstairs 
and into the street. Tottenham Court Road, 
into which she wandered, had scarcely yet 
awakened to the day's work. Silence reigned 
in the sleeping houses, and, here and there, a 
high window, caught by the sun, gleamed like 
gold. The air, fresh and cool, fanned the girl's 
cheek as she rambled on, anxious only to forget 
that hour of dawn which had brought such 
panic with it. She dared not return to her 
lodging, though what it was she feared she 
could not tell. When the city rose, with 
cheerful bustle, she found a restaurant and 
ordered breakfast. It was served with wonder- 
ing looks by the waitress; but Frances 
could not eat, though she felt faint and oddly 
weak. 

She knew that it was the day of the exam- 
ination, and that she must be at the hall before 
two o'clock, but all thought of the work, all 
anxiety concerning her success, had slipped 
away from her. She was taxing all her powers to 
put from her the terror which had assailed her 
at sight of the sunrise, and she longed with all 
her heart for Hilary. She felt that she would 
no longer be afraid if Hilary's young strong 



224 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

arms were round her, and Hilary's frank, smiling 
eyes looking into hers. 

She rested her chin on her hand and leaned 
forward on the little marble-topped table. It 
was such a white, pinched face, and such dark, 
troubled eyes that stared from the corner, that 
the waitresses gathered together and discussed 
her in whispers. They let her sit there for an 
hour, and then one, who could bear the sight 
of the white, miserable face no longer, came 
and asked her if she were ill, and if there were 
anything she could do for her. 

Frances started and looked about her 
wonderingly, then got up and went away, leav- 
ing her coffee untasted and unpaid for upon 
the table. No one attempted to stop her. 
There was something in her face which forbade 
question and went to the hearts of those who 
saw her. 

She wandered about the city until the hour 
approached for the examination. Then she went 
to the hall and took her seat, without a word 
of greeting for the little knot of her 
acquaintances who stood together near the 
doorway. 

A few minutes later they too took their 
seats, and the papers were distributed. Frances 



A DISASTER. 225 

took up the sheet with trembling fingers. She 
had worked so hard, she was so well prepared, 
it was inevitable that she should pass 
brilliantly. In thought she had often heard 
herself spoken of as one who had brought 
honour to the Hospital, and the next generation 
of students would recall her work with bated 
breath. She was going to take her place in the 
world and force the sceptical to acknowledge 
that there was a work for the woman-doctor 
and that she did it well. 

Vain hope, vain effort I The questions were 
vague and meaningless to her. She neither 
grasped their intent nor found the least glimmer- 
ing of an answer to them in her mind. She 
could only sit with the paper before her, 
writing nothing, gradually comprehending the 
dreadful truth that if she sat there for hours 
she would write nothing. 

Only at the last moment, when the bustle 
of retiring students warned her that the time 
allowed for the paper had expired, did she 
accept defeat. She got up and stumbled 
blindly from the room. As she went down 
the staircase two or three girls, chatting 
together, stopped and looked at her, startled by 
the expression on the little white face. One 



226 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

touched her gently on the arm as she 
passed. 

" Our ways lie in the same direction, Miss 
, Kemsing. I you can wait till I fetch my hat, 
we might walk together," she said kindly. 

Frances stared at her blankly. "Why 
should you wish me to walk with you?" she 
cried passionately. "Let me alone in my 
misery." 

She threw aside Mary Callender's detaining 
hand, and ran down the stairs and out into 
the afternoon sunshine. 

Mary Callender drew back with a pale 
face. She had worked with Frances for months, 
and the two had been the best of friends. 

"She has overworked. I knew she was 
doing too much," she said, awe-struck. "She 
looked at me as though I were the veriest 
stranger. I don't believe she remembered ever 
having seen one of us before." 

Mona Smith nodded. "She sat near me, 
and I saw that she did not write a line. Her 
paper was clean as when it was given out, and 
I know that she was awfully well up. Let us 
go after her to her diggings. She doesn't look 
fit to be alone, and Ursula Grantham is not in 
London." 



A DISASTER. 227 

But Frances had not gone back to Skone 
Street. All that long and terrible day her 
thoughts had gone insistently to Hilary, and 
her desire to be with her became her crying 
need. When she left the hall she had only one 
idea, to go to her without delay. Mechanic- 
ally her steps turned towards St. Pancras 
Station. 

She had enough money in her purse to pay 
for her ticket, and sat down on the platform to 
wait for a train. She never knew how long 
she waited, but evening had fallen when she 
alighted at the wayside station and set out to 
walk to Meadham. 

She went slowly, very slowly, for she was 
dazed and weak with her long fast and the 
horror of the day. Her progress was like that 
of a child recovering from a long illness, a 
hesitating and stumbling along the dusty lane. 
She looked like a child, too, in the twilight, 
with her small, wan face, her close-cropped 
hair, her tiny figure in its dark, clinging gown. 

She had asked for no directions, and walked 
on blindly, scarcely conscious when, at a 
bend in the lane, she left the beaten track 
and plunged into a spinney of brush and 
birches. In the dungeon-like darkness of the 



228 MRS. PEDERSOH'S NIECE. 

wood she went, groping her way, stumbling 
over tree roots, knocking herself against the 
boles. Here and there, through rents in the 
leafy roof, the glimmer of starlight reached her, 
a dim shine which only exaggerated the dark- 
ness of the wood beyond. 

Presently the wind began to huddle the 
birches and to murmur amongst them. Now 
it sounded for a few minutes with a steady, 
even rush, then it would swell and break like 
a wave on the seashore. Frances was not 
frightened as she had been by the glory of 
the morning sunshine. She felt that nothing else 
on earth could give her the pain of that hour 
of dawn and her intolerable fear of it. 

It was the first night she had ever spent under 
the open sky, but no sense of alarm possessed 
her. The darkness seemed to fold her round in a 
close and comforting embrace. She sank down 
at the foot of a tree and rested her aching 
head against its bole. She had lost the power 
of consecutive thought, and gradually the 
wind acted as a lullaby and sleep took posses- 
sion of her. 

She woke chilled and stiff, to find the 
world flooded with the faint blue light which 
precedes the dawn and is never seen but as the 



A DISASTER. 229 

herald of morning. The woods were sighing 
and shivering in the cool, strong wind, and 
the piping of birds only seemed to increase the 
awesome stillness. 

For a moment she was at a loss to account 
for her presence in this strange place ; then 
there came slowly back to her the recollection of 
her flight from town and her impelling desire to 
find Hilary. 

She got up with difficulty, and shook the 
forest-mast from her gown, which clung about 
her damp and heavy. She saw now that 
she had wandered from the lane, and that 
she must retrace her steps if she would reach 
the village. Looking through an opening made 
by woodcutters in the thick tanglewood, she 
could see the spire of Meadham Church, the 
chimneys of the cottages, and the long roof 
of a house which she guessed to be Fairmead. 
She gathered up her skirts and walked on, 
inquiring her way of a passing labourer, who 
pointed out the little footpath which led along 
the river bank to the cottage. 



CHAPTER XIX. 

DARK DAYS AT THE COTTAGE. 

EARLY that morning Hilary was up and out 
of doors. She had, for once, slept ill, and rose 
with an uncomfortable sense of having dreamed 
bad dreams. 

" Clearly I want something to do," she said, 
as she dressed quickly. "I don't ask that life 
shall be all rose-coloured, but I object to it 
being uniformly drab. I must find work of 
some kind, or I shall develop a fiendish 
temper." 

It was a fortnight since Mrs. Hilder and 
her son left Fairmead, and though two or three 
letters had passed between the Cottage and 
Wiesbaden, Mrs. Hilder's had conveyed no 
very definite news. Mr. Hilder had undergone 
an examination, but the oculist had pronounced 
no opinion, and the operation was postponed 
from day to day. 

For Hilary the weeks dragged wearily ; 
anxiety made her restless, and she missed the 
occupation which had been her chief pleasure. 




"'Well, for independence and sheer audacity, commend me to 
Hilary Pederson!'" (p. 184). 



DARK DAYS AT THE COTTAGE. 231 

" Now you can sympathise with me, Hilary," 
Mrs. Pederson said. "You will be ready 
to go back to town as soon as the Hilders 
come home. You only agreed to stay until 
then, and a silly thing it was to promise. I 
think I will write to Mrs. Bateson at once and 
ask her if she can take us in. It is all 
nonsense about our not being able to afford 
such accommodation as she can give." 

Hilary shook her head. "Don't write yet, 
please, Aunt Sophie," she said. "Wait until 
Mr. Hilder comes back. It will be quite soon 
enough." 

Not even to Mrs. Pederson could she tell 
what lay behind her reluctance to take any 
steps towards leaving Meadham. If what they 
hoped for never came to pass and Mr. Hilder still 
needed her, nothing should persuade her to go 
back to town. 

It was barely six o'clock when Hilary 
stepped out into the garden and ran quickly 
across the lawn to the little gate which opened 
on the path beside the river. This was a 
favourite walk with her, and little frequented, 
being a private footpath leading to the village 
and to Fairmead. She was not likely to 
meet anyone at this hour. Few people in 



232 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

Meadhara shared her delight in early walks. 
Mrs. Pederson always said she liked the world 
well-aired, and it made her shiver to see the 
mist lying over the fields and every twig with 
its row of diamonds. This morning the birds 
were yet drowsily stirring in their nests, and 
across the fields came the lowing of cows at 
the milking place. 

Suddenly Hilary stopped in her brisk walk 
and her heart beat faster than usual. Someone 
was coming towards her swiftly, someone in a 
soft, dark gown, clinging damply about her, 
with face and hands gleaming white through 
the morning mist. 

She stood motionless for a moment as 
though petrified. Then she sprang forward 
quickly. 

" Francie, Francie I can it be you ? " she 
cried, throwing her strong young arms about 
her cousin. It was Frances, to be sure. Those 
were Frances' eyes which looked into Hilary's 
with a weariness beyond description ; those 
were Frances' hands which grasped her 
shoulders with the clinging of one who has 
nothing else to hold by ; that was Frances' 
face, drawn and haggard as Hilary had never 
seen it before. 



DARK DAYS AT THE COTTAGE. 233 

"I want to be with you, Hilary," Frances 
said weakly. "I have been coming to you 
since yesterday. I have been out all night. 
I think I slept in a wood, but my head hurts 
so much that I cannot remember." 

Hilary held her tightly. Something terrible 
had happened, but it was plain that Frances 
was in no condition to explain. 

"But now you have found me, dear, you 
need not worry any more," she said tenderly. 
" Lean on me, and I will take you to the 
Cottage. It is quite near." 

Frances yielded herself passively into the 

younger girl's care. She felt too weak and 

weary to care for any external thing. Even 

the panic of yesterday and her terrible failure 

, were fading from her mind. 

It was still so early that no one except old 
Margaret was astir when the girls reached the 
Cottage. In a few words Hilary explained 
Frances' presence, and with the help of the 
old servant carried her upstairs and got her 
into bed. This was scarcely done before the 
weary wanderer sank into a deep sleep which 
was almost a stupor. 

Leaving her with Margaret, Hilary went 
to tell Mrs. Vision and her aunt what had 



234 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

happened and to find a maid who could fetch 
a doctor. "Something dreadful has happened/' 
she said, with quivering lip. "Thank God she 
thought of coming straight to us." 

The doctor's face was grave as he made his 
examination and looked at the frail and over- 
taxed little frame. It was undoubtedly a case 
of high fever, and the patient had evidently 
had a severe shock of some kind. Its effect 
on a system strained to the utmost could not 
fail to be disastrous, though with great care 
and skilful nursing she might pull through. 

There was no question now of Hilary's 
sighing for lack of occupation. With Mrs. 
Vision, she devoted herself to the nursing of 
Frances, wondering many a time what was the 
shock which had so shattered the girl's health. 
One day she wrote to Mona Smith and asked 
if Frances had sat for the examination, and 
whether she had shown any signs ol break- 
down before leaving town. 

Mona answered the letter at once, telling 
Hilary all she knew of Frances' odd bearing 
in the examination hall and her absolute 
failure. 

"It was what Ursula Grantham feared," 
Hilary said, showing the letter to Mrs. Vision. 



DARK DAYS AT THE COTTAGE. 235 

"The string too tightly stretched is sure to 
snap. Poor Frances 1 I dread the day when 
she comes to remember. She once said that 
she would never try again. If she failed, she 
said, her career was closed." 

Mrs. Pederson, in whom illness always 
produced something like a panic, was of little use 
in the sick-room. There was no doubting her 
anxiety, however, and it was evident that she 
suffered greatly in these sad, miserable weeks. 
If Hilary had doubted that Mrs. Pederson had 
much affection for her daughter, she did so no 
longer. Nothing shows the strength of family 
ties like the possibility of their being broken. 
Many a day began with the uncertainty whether 
Frances would see its sunset, and, at night, 
Hilary often took her place beside the bed 
wondering whether the patient's blank gaze 
would open on another dawn. 

Mrs. Pederson wandered about the house in 
a state of conscious and wretched superfluous- 
ness. She forgot that she had ever felt Frances 
presence a vexation, and declared her own future 
for ever begloomed if it had to be spent without 
her. In the hour of possible parting, mother- 
love sprang full-grown into life. Not mother-love 
as many of us understand it, but the truest 



236 Mas. PEDERSON'S NIECB. 

poor Mrs. Pederson's limited nature could 
germinate. 

Of Mrs. Vision and Hilary she was pro- 
foundly and unreasonably jealous, envying 
them the tasks she was herself incompetent 
to perform. Hilary could not help pitying 
her deeply, even when her own temper 
was chafed by her aunt's stream of complaints 
and her perpetual protest that Mrs. Vision and 
her niece were bent on robbing her of Frances' 
affection. 

Hilary in these days was indeed "working 
in the furrows," and had need of "joy to come 
and sing to her." 

It was well that she had Mrs. Vision to 
lean upon. There are some women whose 
mere presence is a rock for defence and shelter 
in the time of stress, and Mrs. Vision was one 
of these. In earlier and brighter days, the 
drawing-room in her pleasant house in Gordon 
Square had been, to a little band of workers 
in all ranks, by turns a camp of refuge, a con- 
fessional, and a shrine. Some kinds of philan- 
thropy cannot be scheduled, and what Agnes 
Vision did for her friends will never be known. 
She would say laughingly that she had no time 
for committees and leagues, and that she had 



DARK DAYS AT THE COTTAGE. 237 

her own work, though it could not be tabulated. 
While so many people were "doing," it was not 
a small thing for the world that someone should 
just " be" and it taxed all her powers merely 
to live. 

After all, hers was no mean task, if it 
were only to hold the cup of refreshment to 
the lips of some weary pilgrim, to buckle on 
the armour of one going down into the battle. 
She remembered the words of a modern writer, 
that "always behind the flaming renown ot 
some great man there is a woman's hand, 
pouring unseen the nutritive oil of encourage- 
ment and praise," and she was content if she 
could but play this part well. She was all 
this and more to our Hilary, travelling over one 
of the roughest places in her young life. 

At last there came a day when the weight 
of depressing anxiety began to slip from the 
shoulders of the watchers at the Cottage. It 
was possible to hope, though even yet only 
faintly. Frances' tireless babbling ceased, the 
hectic flush faded from the thin little face, and 
the doctor's eyes smiled as he looked across the 
bed at Mrs. Vision. 

"We shall pull her through now, if all goes 
well," he said. "She'll owe her life to you 



238 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

and that bonny Miss Hilary. It has been a 
hand-to-hand fight, and so there's some credit 
in winning." 

Mrs. Vision called Margaret to take her place, 
and went downstairs at once to tell Hilary. 
The girl was walking in the garden, where 
the trees were fast losing their leaves, and 
the shrubs had begun to look black and 
shrivelled. 

She was pacing slowly to and fro, reading 
a letter she held in her hand. When she 
turned to meet Mrs. Vision, there was a light 
in her eyes which had not been there for 
weeks. 

"Your face says Francie is better," she said 
brightly. "This is indeed a red-letter day. I 
have just had a note from Mrs. Hilder, and 
there is one in the hall for you. They are com- 
ing home the week after next When I stopped 
the doctor at the gate and heard that Francie 
was going to recover, I thought the world was 
beginning to go well with us again. It is 
strange that Mrs. Hilder says nothing about the 
operation, but surely no news is good news. 
If things had gone badly her heart would be 
so broken that she could not have written of 
anything else." 



DARK DAYS AT THE COTTAGE. 239 

Mrs. Vision nodded absently. Though she 
said nothing to damp Hilary's expectancy, , she 
feared the more because of this silence. She 
had something of Mrs. Hilder's spirit, and knew 
the instinct which bids the heart hide its 
agony and show to the world an unruffled 
front. 

"Frances is sleeping now, so, if you like, 
you may go up to her room," she said. 
"When she wakes I expect she will know us 
all." 

Hilary's eyes shone. "God is very good," 
she said softly. "I must go and tell Aunt 
Sophie. She will be so glad, poor dear. It has 
been such a trial to her not to be able to 
nurse Francie, but there will be much she can 
do now." 

She went off to the dining-room, where Mrs. 
Pederson was nodding drowsily over a news- 
paper. Hilary's news banished all sleepiness in 
a moment, and the paper dropped from her 
trembling fingers. She tried to speak, but words 
failed, and tears rolled down her wrinkled 
cheeks. 

"I never knew how I loved that child till 
she seemed slipping away from me," she said, 
wiping her eyes. " Never love too little, Hilary ; 



240 MRS. PEDEKSON'S NIECE. 

nothing hurts more when you think it's too late 
to make up for your coolness. I've thought a 
lot since I've had so much time on my hands. 
I've thought of Frances, baby, child and 
woman, till I can't for the life of me see why 
we never got on together. If she had been 
more like you, Hilary, perhaps we should have 
cared for one another more. She was always 
too clever for me, and little good her clever- 
ness has done her, after all. It's going to be 
different altogether that is, if Frances does not 
keep up old grievances, and I don't think she 
will. A girl cannot go down to the gates of 
death, surely, and be no better. Anyhow, I am 
going to nurse her now. There is nothing I 
can't do for a convalescent as well as Mrs. 
Vision, though Dr. Maydew says she has a genius 
for nursing." 

It was only to be expected that Frances' 
recovery should be slow and gradual. She 
seemed to lack all that desire for life which is 
one of the greatest aids to restoration. She lay 
day after day, languid and speechless, staring 
out of the window, thinking, dreaming, yet 
never speaking of the disappointment and failure 
which filled her mind and brought the furrow 
of pain into her white forehead. She submitted 



DARK DAYS AT THE COTTAGE. 241 

to be petted with the listless languor of a 
spoiled child in the early stages of convalescence, 
and received the attentions of her nurses with 
a sullen apathy quite foreign to her. Self- 
absorbed Frances might be, but she had never 
been ungrateful. 

On the day fixed for the return or the 
Hilders to Fairmead, she was well enough to 
be carried to a sofa near the fire in Mrs. 
Pederson's sitting-room. Hilary sat at the 
window, listening for the barking of the dogs 
which would announce the arrival of the 
travellers. 

Frances watched her indolently. 

" You will begin work again now ? " she 
said. "I shall miss you, for convalescence is a 
thousand times duller than illness. How many 
days will your master allow you before you go 
into harness again ? " 

Hilary frowned. "Don't, Francie," she 
said, in a strangled voice. "Do you forget 
that if he wants me at all, it will be because 
the operation has failed ? I'm waiting to know. 
I wish I were not so horribly afraid for him. 
Mrs. Vision will harbour no doubts ; she thinks 
Mrs. Hilder would have told her if it had 
failed, but the letters have said nothing about it" 



242 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECB. 

"'No news, good news/ says the proverb/' 
Frances replied lazily. " If you are so anxious, 
why don't you go down to Fairmead and see 
for yourself? It's worrying to see you sit 
there, looking like Patience on a monument, 
concealing a preying anxiety." 

Hilary coloured and bit her lip. Not so 
long ago she would have needed no telling; 
she would have snatched up her hat and have 
been at the gate to meet the travellers. To- 
day, some odd shyness, to which she could not 
give a name, held her back* 



CHAPTER XX. 

THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS. 

HILARY was going up to her room that night 
when Mrs. Vision entered the hall from the 
garden, a shawl thrown over her fair hair. 

"Yes, I have been up to Fairmead," she 
said, answering the question in Hilary's eyes. 
There was a note of sadness in her vibrant 
voice, and her face wore a grave expression. 
rt I did not see Max ; he had gone out to 
smoke a cigar. It was all of no use, Hilary. 
Mrs. Hilder says that Pagenstecher gave only 
the faintest hope, and even that was elusive. 
Poor Max may have to walk in darkness all 
the days of his life." 

The girl's face paled, and she clung to the 
rail of the banister. She did not know till 
then how much she had actually hoped for 
Mr. Hilder' s recovery, and how truly she 
suffered for him. 

"How can he bear it?" she said, through 
her clenched teeth. 

Mrs. Vision lifted her heafi with that pride 



244 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

she never failed to feel in any form of human 
courage and heroism. 

" Mrs. Hilder says he bears it wonderfully. 
She has never heard one word of complaint. 
He accepts his cross without a shadow of 
repining. He is even full of the tlan of youth 
and life. He regrets his loss on his mother's 
account, while she, poor thing, says that even 
in the midst of the sorrow, she feels there are 
compensations. He will never leave her now. 
Once his work took him away often; he 
travelled greatly. He will travel no more 
without her, and she cannot help feeling that 
his presence compensates her a little, though she 
blames herself for the feeling." 

" Nothing can compensate him" Hilary said 
sadly. Yet as she went up to her room, one 
thought came again and again to her mind; 
she had her compensation. He would need 
her still. Her work at Meadham was not 
done, and she would not be called to leave it. 

She pulled up the blind and looked out 
into the night. The full moon stood over the 
fir wood, painting the autumn landscape with its 
silvery beams. It brightened copse and river 
bank and the riband of pathway which led 
from the Cottage to Fairmead. The trees had 



THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS. 245 

lost their wealth of foliage, and Hilary could see 
the dark mass of the old house and its stacks 
of chimneys ink-black in the moonlit landscape. 
Half gazing at the beautiful scene, half dreaming 
of what Mrs. Vision had told her, Hilary 
became suddenly aware of a figure, moving 
hesitatingly and uncertainly in the shadow of 
the wood. Near the Cottage garden it stopped 
and turned, stretching the arms out with the 
gesture of one in dire distress. Hilary stood 
riveted to the spot, straining her eyes to dis- 
cover who it might be wandering along the 
private path so near to the Cottage. As she 
watched, the figure emerged into the moonlight, 
and she recognised Max Hilder. 

For a moment she stood motionless. Then 
she pulled down the blind and moved quickly 
from the window. There was that in his gait 
and bearing that told her he was weary and 
heart-sick, and, for the moment, had thrown off 
the armour he wore before others. Even 
she who understood and pitied him from the 
bottom of her warm, generous young heart, 
would not look upon his struggle. 

Yes, the full moon which brightened copse 
and field could not brighten the future, which 
stretched dark and empty before the master ot 



246 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

Fairmead. Though he might show an unruffled 
front to the world, he had his dark hours, and 
one was upon him now. 

He knew that everyone wondered at his 
courage and praised his gallant bearing ; the 
recollection brought a bitter smile to his face. 
If they but knew how desperately hard it was at 
times to let ambition, youthful daring, and 
hopes of love go by, and to piece together 
the broken potsherds of life which were all that 
were left to him 1 

He stumbled along the river path till he 
reached Mrs. Vision's boundary, and leaned on 
the rustic fence. He had expected to find 
Hilary at the house when he returned, and 
Mrs. Vision's explanation of Frances Kemsing's 
illness and the necessity of the girl's attendance 
upon her, scarcely satisfied him. He knew 
that the thought ot Hilary had been with him 
constantly since he had settled for ever in the 
valley of shadows, and he congratulated himself 
that for once his folly had been wisdom. He 
rejoiced that he had had one glimpse of that 
radiant girlish face, since the sight must last 
him a lifetime. 

He was thinking of Hilary as he paced to 
and fro slowly. She had counted for much both 



THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS. 247 

with his mother and himself since she danced 
into their life so prosaically, in answer to an 
advertisement. He recalled her clear, gay 
voice, her little bursts of laughter, her frank, 
direct views upon one and every subject which 
came under discussion, her sudden enthusiasms 
and her innocently severe judgments. 

And what a worker she was ! Surely a man 
never had a more energetic and whole-hearted 
secretary, given even to works of supereroga- 
tion, as though her hours were not long and 
tedious enough. 

There was no question now of her leaving 
Meadham ; he could do without her less than 
ever. Yet as this thought flashed across his 
mind he recalled something Mrs. Vision had 
said. The old aunt was getting restless, and had 
announced her intention of returning to town 
as soon as Hilary's engagement was fulfilled. 
Perhaps arrangements had already been made 
and Hilary's failure to meet her friends arose 
from a dislike to tell them that they must 
part. 

He threw his cigar into the grass, where it 
glowed a moment like a tiny spark of fire. 
That possibility opened a chamber in the young 
man's heart, the existence of which he had only 



248 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

vaguely suspected. He was startled, displeased, 
aghast at the sorrow he was preparing for him- 
self. 

What was this wild dream he was cherish- 
ing ? Like a chill wind, stern reality smote him 
in the face, and he turned away, whispering 
that he must cure himself of this folly. 

There was much left, even to a man blind 
and helpless, but he must not ask for brightness 
and youth to link themselves with his dark- 
ness. He could dream of woman's love, but he 
might never ask for it. 

Next day Hilary went up to Fairmead. 
She was shown at once to the library, where 
mother and son were sitting together. Some- 
thing in the aspect of the room and the 
attitudes of the two struck a chill to the girl's 
heart She told herself, afterwards, that it was 
the atmosphere of accepted trouble, the sitting 
down, as it were, to bear it, that hurt her. 
It was always Hilary's way to fight a trouble, 
to say to climbing sorrow, " Thy element's 
below," and she had expected Max to share 
her feeling. She did not think that she 
admired him in the attitude of resignation. 

She looked round the room quickly. Mrs. 
Hilder sat in a high-backed chair in the 



THE VALLEY OP SHADOWS. 249 

window, her white hands lying idle in her 
silken lap ; Max stood propping his broad 
back against the mantelshelf The table was 
swept clear of the litter of papers it always 
bore, and books were stacked neatly on 
the shelves. Surely this did not mean 
that work was to be put aside from to- 
day, and that the epoch-making book was 
never to be finished 1 Mrs. Vision's account 
of Max's mood had not suggested this, and 
Hilary resolved with girlish confidence that 
it should not last if she could help it. 

Mrs. Hilder smiled faintly as the girl crossed 
the room and uttered her name in a tone of 
affectionate welcome. 

"You see, we are home again, my dear," 
she said gently. "I suppose Agnes has told 
you that our journey was fruitless. Even hope 
is no longer left us. But Max refuses to be 
crushed; he is brave as ever." 

Hilary looked from mother to son with 
dim eyes. In the presence of trouble she 
always forgot self and circumstance, in an 
overwhelming desire to help and comfort. " I 
am so sorry, so unspeakably sorry 1 " she 
cried. 

Max Hilder felt, though he could not see, 



250 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

the pitying gaze she turned upon him, and he 
smiled. 

"It is no use denying that this has been 
the going down of a great hope, Miss Hilary. 
Pagenstecher's verdict leaves the future pretty 
blank." 

Hilary shook her head. "The future may 
still be just as full and bright as you care to 
make it, Mr. Hilder," she cried eagerly. "You 
have not got your breath yet, you know ; 
things will look quite different by-and-bye. 
There was Homer, and Milton, you know," she 
went on with cheerful irrelevance. " They 
did lots of work under just the same dis- 
advantages. And you have me. I am not 
humble enough to think myself a nonentity. 
Surely you are not going to tell me that my 
eyes are not good enough to be supplementary 
to yours, and that even with my help you 
cannot finish the book. I will do all I possibly 
can, if you will let me." 

Hilder's lips twitched as he listened to this 
impetuous, warm-hearted speech. He was 
glad from the bottom of his heart that he had 
seen Hilary once, though for such a brief 
space of time. He knew just how she was 
looking at him now, the grey eyes shining, 



THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS. 251 

the mobile face upturned, and the sweet lips 
apart. 

He was silent for a moment, and then he 
laughed the pleasantest laugh his mother had 
heard since they had left Germany. 

"It were a shame to despond with such a 
comrade," he said lightly. "I accept your 
help, Miss Hilary, though I dare not hope 
that, even backed up by you, I shall make a 
trio with Homer and Milton." 

He went to the table and swept a pile of 
manuscript from a drawer. "Why shouldn't we 
set things in order at once for a start ? " he said. 
" I have wasted enough time already, and I am 
sick of idleness. There ought to be some notes 
which a fellow-student took for me when we 
were in Wiesbaden, among this batch of papers. 
Look them out, and we will fit them into their 
place in the manuscript." 

Hilary threw off her hat and set to work, 
whilst her employer roughly sketched a new 
development of the book he had decided upon. 

Mrs. Hilder watched them with a happy 
light in her dark eyes. She had no fears for 
Max now. He would take up his work again, 
and she would not have to sit by and watch 
the epicurean patience which had tried her 



2$ 2 MRS. PEDER SON'S NIECE. 

sorely once before. She blessed Hilary in her 
heart, and felt that it was a happy day for 
Fairmead and its master when she came across 
its threshold. 

She had come among them without flourish 
of trumpets. She had just slipped into her 
place and set herself to do the work required 
of her, as though it were what she had been 
born to do. But once she was settled there, 
it seemed as though they had got something 
they had wanted all their lives. Mrs. Hilder 
knew that if Hilary left Meadham, she would 
miss her as she would miss the swallows which 
came to make their nests under the eaves every 
year, or the primroses which bloomed in the 
south border every March, or any other sweet 
familiar thing. 

But what of Max ? Was he, too, beginning 
to turn to the girl in the way which meant 
that he would miss her irreparably if she went 
out of his life ? Mrs. Hilder wondered some- 
times, and scarcely knew whether she hoped 
or feared most 



CHAPTER XXI. 

IN THE FURROWS. 

WINTER came early that year, and passed 
quietly for the party at the Cottage. Frances 
still lingered in a state of semi-invalidism, and 
neither mentioned her work nor said anything 
about returning to the hospital. Ambition and 
energy seemed to lie dormant, and when Hilary 
ventured to speak of them, Frances would 
merely shrug her shoulders. 

"Am not I providing the mater with 
occupation, which by your own showing, my 
good girl, she needed greatly ? " she would say. 
" While she has me to fuss over she won't want 
to leave Meadham, which I suppose is the last 
thing you desire." 

Mrs. Pederson was indeed happier than she 
had been for months, and seemed to have for- 
gotten her restless desire to get back to town. 
Mrs. Vision had gone on another long visit to 
her friends, and the care of the convalescent 
devolved upon Mrs. Pederson. She was im- 
mensely busy, concocting little messes upon an 



254 MRS. PEDERSON'S N/ECE. 

oil-stove, with which she provided herself when 
Margaret absolutely forbade her the kitchen, 
and fussing round Frances in a way which 
would have driven the girl frantic, if she had 
cared about anything enough to be worried by 
it. 

For Hilary the days passed heavily, and 
that brightness and buoyancy of spirit which Paul 
Kemsing had once said was her richest endow- 
ment, were only kept by a determined effort. She 
was oppressed by an intangible trouble to which 
she could not give a name and of which she 
could never have spoken to anyone. A trouble 
she could not share always weighed most 
heavily on Hilary ; it was her nature to be frank 
and outspoken, and she chafed under any sense 
of separation between herself and those she 
lived with, were it only one of thought and 
feeling. 

Though she had taken up the thread of life 
without any outward difference when the Hilders 
returned from Wiesbaden, there was a very real 
change in it. Max had been right when he 
said she would never again see the same Max 
Hilder. Without in the least understanding how 
it had come about, Hilary felt that a barrier 
had risen between her and her employer, and 



IN THE FURROWS. 255 

she could no longer ask him frankly, as she 
once would have done, in what she had offended. 
She was no longer "little comrade," and her 
heart grew sore as the relations between them 
became more and more formal. She did her 
work patiently and without stint of labour, 
but she missed the old enthusiasm of mutual 
interest, which had once given zest to the 
weariest task. 

It was not possible for Max Hilder to feel 
as he did towards the girl, and for the know- 
ledge to have no effect upon his bearing 
towards her. Awake to his weakness and the 
necessity for conquering it, he placed the sternest 
guard upon himself. It never for a moment 
occurred to him that Hilary might suffer from 
a change of front she could scarcely, without 
vanity, ascribe to its right source. 

Mrs. Hilder looked on, wondering whether 
the policy of letting Providence manage such 
affairs without human intervention might not 
be carried too far. She could see that Hilary 
was not altogether happy, though her smile 
was as frequent and her bearing as blithe as 
ever. 

She proposed, as the spring advanced, that 
the girl should learn to drive the little dogcart 



256 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

used by herself and Max, and that every day 
she should take them into the country. 

"A new duty for secretaries," laughed Max. 
"Mind, I shall talk German folklore all the 
time, Miss Hilary. This mother of mine seems 
to have no idea of the importance of time to 
a literary man." 

" You may talk of what you like ; the con- 
venience of driving is that at any moment I 
can become so absorbed in my task as to be 
excusably inattentive," laughed Hilary, to whom 
the prospect of this new diversion was pleasantly 
exciting. She could not help hoping that the 
intimacy of driving together might bring back 
some of the camaraderie which had once made 
her position at Fairmead so delightful. 

" I never knew what real dependence and 
working for one's living meant until this winter," 
she said to herself. " I used to think Dante 
stupid when he said that the savour of other 
people's bread was salt, but it can be bitter as 
Marah water. Work, like everything in the 
world, is horrid if it is not sweetened by some 
gleam of liking, not to say love, on the part ot 
those you work for." 

She did not doubt that Mr. Hilder had some 
" gleam of liking " for her as the spring months 



IN THE FURROWS. 257 

slipped away, and some of the old freedom of 
intercourse was recovered. They were soon 
even on quarrelling terms, falling out about a 
great many things in a light-hearted way 
which is always a sign of a good understanding. 
Max told himself that he had learnt his lesson 
and might hold himself in check less sternly. 
He knew that while life lasted he should love 
the girl who brightened his dark life with the 
radiance of her strong and vivid personality, but 
he would keep his secret. He hugged to him- 
self the thought that he had never betrayed 
it, and imagined that even his mother did not 
guess how he suffered in private and ached 
with nostalgia for his lost sense. The young 
so seldom guess the keenness of sight love 
gives the old, and that to have suffered and 
loved and lost in the past is a key which 
opens the hidden chambers in the hearts of 
others. 

Mrs. Hilder knew well that Max loved 
Hilary, and she watched the girl, with yearning 
to see some signs of affection on her part. 
She did not share in the least her son's belief 
that his affliction shut him off forever from 
winning love or asking for it. Being a woman, 
she knew that to some it would be an added 



258 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

claim, and believed that Hilary would only love 
the more because the man she loved needed 
her sorely. There are some women who care 
so much to give, that what they gain sinks 
into the background. Their love has most of 
the divine in it, and it makes the world 
a good place for the weak. We wonder some- 
times to see a sweet, strong woman expending 
the wealth of a noble heart upon one we deem 
utterly unworthy of her. Yet why should we 
wonder ? Is not such love strengthening, up- 
holding, giving itself for the betterment of the 
weak, a far-off copy of the divine love, and a fair 
reading of the old truth, "it is more blessed to 
give than to receive"? 

Mrs. Hilder knew that Hilary, in the dawn 
of her womanhood, was one of these, and she 
prayed with her whole heart and soul that 
she might be to Max "as sunshine in a shady 
place," and that to him should be given the 
desire of his heart. 



CHAPTER XXII. 

THE AWAKENING OF FRANCES. 

THERE is a limit even to the deepest sense of 
disappointment and failure. So long as the sun 
shines and the earth awakes each year to new- 
ness, hope and eagerness to take one's place in 
the battle of life must stir the hearts of the 
young. 

Such an awakening came to Frances. She 
opened her eyes one morning to see the April 
sun streaming across her bed and to hear the 
birds twittering under the eaves, and knew that 
the hateful apathy which had succeeded her illness 
had slipped from her. She saw herselt, as it 
were, from outside, and felt that she was play- 
ing a pitiful and cowardly part. To accept 
failure and to sit down calmly under it was a 
part she would have despised in anyone else, 
and she would no longer deal softly with her- 
self. 

"I am strong again, strong enough for any- 
thing," she said, springing out of bed and 
stretching her thin little arms. "It is six 



260 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

months since I came down here. Six months 1 
I have dared to waste six precious months 1 " 

She ran across the room and knelt down by 
the box which held the books Mona Smith had 
sent to her. Mona had been so sure that she 
would ask for them in the first days of 
convalescence. She had neither asked for nor 
desired to see them till this morning. She 
turned them over with eager fingers the 
dear old Anatomy, the worn notebooks, the 
digests of lectures ; the mere touch of the 
pages sent a thrill through the girl. 

"What a fool I have been!" she said. "I 
thought I had ceased to care. I told Hilary 
that one failure had blotted out the past. 
Nothing can efface the past ; it must and does 
live on into the present, and it is just for us 
to decide whether it lives as a curse or a 
blessing. I made a stupid, hideous mistake, and 
the sting lies in the fact that mere stupidity 
kept me from finding it out. I had plenty of 
warnings, but I thought myself wiser. It is 
bitter to imagine that you outshine others in 
brilliance, and discover you are ridiculously 
dense. As a matter of fact, I was the only 
egregious failure the Hospital sent up last 
half-year." 



THE A WAKENING OF FRANCES. 261 

She sat on the floor, staring at the sunbeam, 
with her hands clasped round her knees. She 
had had so much time for thinking during the 
past few weeks ; it seemed to her as though 
she had done nothing but think in a circle, and 
her thoughts had resulted in nothing. Now she 
saw them all at once crystallised into a plan 
for the future. 

The past had been a pitiful mistake ; she 
had tried to fashion a life which should touch 
no other, and which should recognise no call 
so important as that of her own intellect and 
her own success. The secret of her failure lay 
there, just as the secret of Ursula's success lay in 
taking an opposite course. Frances had resolved 
to be a law unto herself, and she had recognised 
no other, moral or divine. She had leaned only 
on her own feeble strength, and it had failed 
her. 

"Let me never lose my hold on Thee again, 
Great Power above us all," she said aloud. 
"Let me trust Thy strength, and I shall not 
fail. I've got the ability; where I failed 
was in thinking that it was everything ; that 
there was no Power above everything, moving 
and directing affairs." 

She would, she told herself, turn her back 



262 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

on that pitiful past, and trust the future to 
make up for its poverty. The future must con- 
tain good, if she willed it so, and a few duties 
she had hitherto neglected stared her in the 
face as a beginning. 

She was still dreaming and planning, when 
Hilary opened the door and came in. 

"My dear Frances, are you mad ? " she cried. 
"You will catch an awful cold sitting there in 
that thin dressing-gown. Get into bed at once 
and let me fetch you some breakfast. Aunt 
Sophie will never forgive me if I have to report 
a relapse." 

Frances sprang to her feet with a laugh. 

"I'm not mad, I have come to my senses 
at last, Hilary," she said, facing her cousin with 
a light in her dark eyes Hilary had never seen 
there before. "I have done with invalidism. 
I'm coming down to the parlour, and I shall 
eat a huge breakfast. I am going to work 
again as soon as ever I can arrange things. I 
shall go back to town and work in earnest for 
the next exam. I never felt so fit in my life." 

Hilary sat down on the bed, and regarded her 
cousin with some apprehension. 

" Of course, I knew the reaction would 
come," she said. " You were not such a coward 



THE A WAKENING OF FRANCES. 263 

as to let one failure spoil all your life. But you 
won't overdo it again, will you ? " 

Frances' lips twitched, and she did not answer 
for a moment. 

"Do you think, dear, I have not learned 
anything from my disappointment and from 
being with you ? " she said, in a softer tone than 
was usual with her. "You know what old 
Carlyle says, ' Experience is a good schoolmaster.' 
I shall try again, and I hope I shall pass. I 
want to get qualified more than I ever did; I 
have got glimpses of work I can do afterwards 
which I had not before. I knew all that 
Ursula said about our opportunities was true, 
but I have only felt it lately. Till you feel a 
thing, it is never really true to you." 

"You mean you will go into the slums 
with Ursula ? " Hilary cried eagerly. 

Frances shook her head. "I don't know 
yet; I can't tell whether other things may not 
clash. I shall not decide yet." 

"I wonder what Aunt Sophie will say when 
she hears you are going back to town," Hilary 
said. "All her occupation will be gone." 

Frances laughed softly. "I'm going to take 
her with me, Hilary. 'Open your eyes and die 
of surprise/ as the Irish song says. I have got 



264 MRS. PEDERSON' s NIECE. 

used to her dear old fussing ways, and they 
won't interfere with my work now. You know 
Ursula is qualified, and gone to her sister who 
lives in Cross Street. I should be alone in my 
diggings, and, you know, I have never had to 
attend to my creature comforts, so I shouldn't 
take to it readily. I should go without my 
meals out of sheer disinclination to prepare 
them. Mother will be perfectly happy ruling 
over the kingdom of my three rooms." 

Hilary nodded with a pleased smile. It did 
not occur to her to regret for a moment the 
little income Frances was blithely and all un- 
consciously planning to take from her. She was 
only too glad that a right and happy relation- 
ship between mother and daughter should be 
established. She knew that Frances' influence 
over her mother was strong, and that, with her, 
Mrs. Pederson would be quite safe from the 
temptations of Chivers Smith. 

It was Mrs. Pederson who first thought 
what the parting meant for her niece. She 
had hailed with delight the idea of going back 
to town with Frances, but she was very un- 
willing to leave Hilary behind. She only con- 
sented when, to Hilary's firm refusal to leave 
Meadham so long as Mr. Hilder needed her, 



THE AWAKENING OF FRANCES. 265 

Mrs. Vision added her assurance that the girl 
should be to her as a daughter. The Cottage 
must be Hilary's home as long as she remained 
in the country. 

One April day found Frances back in 
London. She had settled, with her mother, not 
in the old lodgings, but on a large, comfortable 
top-floor in an old-fashioned house in John 
Street. The rooms had been to let unfurnished, 
and Mrs. Pederson found unending pleasure in 
haunting second-hand shops in search of bargains 
and speeding from one spring sale to another 
in pursuit of cheap draperies. It was a return 
to her old habits which was like the savour of 
life to her. 

At the hospital Frances had been welcomed 
by her old friends with open arms. They 
crowded round her at her first appearance, 
asking her plans, telling her all that had 
happened in her absence, and looking at her 
with eyes full of curiosity. Was she indeed 
the Frances upon whom they had built such 
high hopes six months ago, and to whom 
they had looked to bring glory to the 
Hospital, and who had failed them so incom- 
prehensibly? Yes, she was still the brilliant, 
passionate worker, who had had such scanty 



266 MRS. PEDERSON'S Nmca. 

patience with half-hearted students, and openly 
scoffed at those who gave thought to other 
pursuits. There was no doubting her eager- 
ness to take up her work again and her 
determination to pass her finals with honour, 
but there was a difference. Without knowing 
how or why, each felt that, during her absence, 
Frances had gained something she had hitherto 
lacked. She would never again scoff at the 
student who loved friends and pretty clothes, 
or sneer at the dullard. They had always 
been proud of her, now they began to love her 
also. 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

IN THE HOUR OF PERIL. 

ONE afternoon in early June, Bradbrook was 
cycling into Meadham, for he generally made 
Mead Cottage the goal of his country rides. 
It was some time since he had last visited it, 
and he was unaware of the changes that 
had taken place and that Mrs. Pederson was 
in London with Frances. 

Not that this fact would have disturbed him 
greatly. He would have told himself that her 
value in his eyes depended mainly on her 
relationship to Miss Hilary, and that for 
Hilary's sake he would have travelled farther 
and endured unlimited fatigue. 

At a turn in the road he branched off to 
the left and shot down a steep incline known 
among Meadham people as the "gulley," a 
rough track, barely wide enough for a waggon 
to pass along it, with sheer, bare banks on 
either side. It was a strange, wild spot, 
seldom used except by foot passengers, and 
had been made many years ago for some 



268 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

purpose no one in the district could now 
remember. 

Bradbrook had discovered it on one of his 
cycling expeditions, and used it as a short 
by-way to the Cottage. It cut off a long 
stretch of the high road, besides affording an 
opportunity for that careful riding which is meat 
and drink to the enthusiastic cyclist. 

He had been riding some hours, and the day 
was hot. He decided, therefore, to dismount 
near the head of the gulley, wheel his machine 
into a field, and take a rest before presenting 
himself at the Cottage. He must have fallen 
asleep, for a sound close behind him, a sten- 
torian shout and the grinding and growling 
of some heavy body moving, roused him with 
a start. 

"A confounded traction engine," he said. 
"There ought to be a law compelling them to 
move in the small hours. They are dangerous 
to the common weal, and especially to the 
cycle-wheel if you happen to be caught in a 
trap like this. I'll stay where I am till the 
monster has passed." 

He was establishing himself for another 
nap when there rose such a babel of shouts, 
mingled with the snortings of the agricultural 



IN THE HOUR OF PERIL. 269 

monster, as made him spring to his feet and 
run to a gap in the hedge which commanded a 
view down the gulley. He stood for a moment 
grasping the rail of the fence, his heart beating 
wildly with horror and alarm. 

It was a terrible sight, and there seemed no 
hope of its ending in anything but a tragedy. 
The engine had passed down the hill below 
the point upon which he stood. Down, down 
it went, slowly, relentlessly, like some awful, 
unwieldy force no human power could stay. 
It had either got beyond the management 
of the men upon it, or, like Bradbrook, 
they were so overcome with fright that 
action was impossible. Below was a little 
dogcart which had been crawling up the 
gulley, unconscious of the danger ahead until 
a sharp turn brought its occupants face to face, 
at close quarters, with the engine. 

At the moment Bradbrook reached the 
scene, the owners of the cart had become aware 
of their danger, and the mare had discovered 
what lay ahead of her. A horse of iron nerve 
would have been difficult to manage at such a 
crisis; the graceful creature below was high- 
bred and nervous. Bradbrook watched with 
breathless anxiety to see what would happen. 



2/o MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

The dogcart had two occupants, a tall, broad- 
shouldered man who sat with folded arms and 
appeared to be taking merely a spectacular 
interest in the events which clearly endangered 
his life, and a tall, slender girl who was trying 
with all her might to coax the frightened 
animal to back down the gulley. 

All in vain I The horse was beyond the 
influence of coaxing voice or firm hand. It 
plunged wildly to right and left, struggled to 
get a foothold in the right bank which 
happened at this point to be more shallow 
and sloping. Bradbrook saw the light cart tilt 
perilously on the bank, then the mare turned 
wildly and tore down the incline, leaving the 
man and the girl on the roadside. 

At that moment Bradbrook uttered a shout, 
and, springing over the fence, rushed to the 
scene of disaster. 

"Stop that thing you must," he shouted to 
the men as he passed the engine. " You have 
done damage enough already with your infernal 
engine. Don't risk taking more life. Reverse 
the thing, run it into the bank, do something 
for Heaven's sake, it you would not be hung 
for murder." 

The moment the mare plunged, he had 



IN THE HOUR OP PERIL. 271 

seen the girl's white upturned face. It was 
Hilary, and the man who sat at her side 
must be the master of Fairmead, going to 
his death, poor fellow, blind as to how the 
blow fell. 

Mr. Hilder escaped as by a miracle, falling 
against the sloping bank without ever losing his 
footing. When Bradbrook came up he was 
moving here and there with a face more white 
and set in misery than Bradbrook had ever 
seen a human face. 

" Hilary 1 ... Hilary ! . . . Little comrade ! " 
he was crying, " Good Heavens ! to think I 
cannot find her, and that she may be dead ! " 
There was something in this futile searching, 
this agonised protest against his disability, which 
touched the kind-hearted insurance agent to the 
quick. In the flash of a moment he knew 
that Hilder loved the girl he was seeking, and 
that they two were rivals. Yet no one could 
have been jealous who saw that futile energy, 
that pathetic groping, or heard that heart- 
broken cry. He made all the haste pos- 
sible to the spot and touched Hilder on the 
arm. 

"This a bad business, but I'm here to help 
you. You don't know me : I'm a friend of 



272 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

Miss Pederson's. Don't you worry she isn't 
dead. She's lying just where the turn of the 
cart threw her ; but she had a soft bed. 
The clay is pretty thick, and there happened 
to be a ledge with grass over it handy. I've 
a bit or experience in dealing with fainting folks, 
for I'm an ambulance man. She will come 
round in a few minutes when I've given her a 
few drops out of my flask. I always carry a 
flask ; you never know what may happen. Not 
that one often gets jobs like this." 

He talked fast and cheerfully as he knelt 
beside the ledge on which the girl lay, 
treating her with that skill and deftness she 
had admired on a former occasion. He guided 
the blind man to the spot, and with a delicacy 
no one would have expected in him, allowed 
him to hold the girl's unconscious form 
supported against his knee. 

Bradbrook felt sure no bones were broken ; 
both occupants of the dogcart had had a 
miraculous escape. Hilary had been badly 
shaken by the fall, and the horror of the 
danger had caused her to faint; but, so far 
as Bradbrook could discover, she was not other- 
wise hurt. 

He watched her closely for a few minutes, 



IN THE HOUR OF PERIL. 273 

and then looked at his companion with a 
gratified smile. 

" She will do now. Can't you hear her sigh ? 
In a minute she will open her eyes and wonder 
where she is. There, she is getting a little 
colour. She will be herself directly. If you do 
not mind being left a moment, I will go up and 
ask those rascally engine-men where we can get 
a trap to carry her home. I have a bicycle in 
the field, too, which I don't want to leave to 
the mercies of vagabonds." 

He ran up the gulley, and Max Hilder was 
left alone with the unconscious Hilary. Never 
before or since did he long for his lost eyesight 
as he did that moment. For knowledge of 
how this terrible accident had injured her, for 
information as to how she was bearing it, he 
had to depend on a stranger, whose very voice 
warned Hilder that he was a kindly soul, who 
sympathised with his misfortune, and might be 
inclined to say what was soothing rather than 
what was strictly true. 

Suppose Hilary were dead ? Suppose this 
stillness meant that the radiant young spirit 
was gone for ever, and that never again would 
she brighten his path as he trod the long valley 
of shadows. 



274 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

" Hilary, Hilary ! come back to me ! * he 
cried, with an exceeding bitter cry, as he drew 
her closer to him. "Have I killed you, little 
comrade ? It was my wish, not yours, that we 
should drive on this dangerous path ! My love, 
my love ! come back 1 life will be too hard and 
dark wanting you." 

He scarcely knew that he spoke aloud. In 
the bitterness of his anxiety, shut out in his 
darkness, he uttered his thought, all unconscious 
that it reached the heart of the girl and recalled 
her to what was passing around her. She 
opened her eyes, and her breath came with a 
little gasping sigh. 

" Hilary, little love, say that you live," Hilder 
whispered, feeling her face with gentle, reverent 
hand. 

" Max, Max 1 " she whispered, the colour flood- 
ing her white cheeks. " I am quite safe. I 
suppose I fainted ; but I am in no pain. Tell 
me, you are not hurt ? I thought it so terrible 
that you should be thrown without being able 
to see your danger." 

"No, I am not hurt; everything is well if 
you are safe, child. Little comrade, life would 
have been a sorry place for me if you had 
gone." 



Iff THE HOUR OF PERIL. 275 

Hilary could not speak; she clung to the 
arm that supported her, until Bradbrook's 
footsteps were heard and he came up, pushing 
his bicycle. 

" Ah, Miss Hilary 1 you are all right again, I 
see. Lucky escape you've had, I can tell you ; 
but Providence watches over us all, and knew 
we could not spare one of your sort. I'm 
going to leave you while I go down to the village 
and fetch some sort of a trap to take you 
home. By the way, the driver of that engine 
of destruction says that if you will step a 
yard or two down the lane, there is an opening 
into a field where you might shelter while 
he gets by. I pointed out to him that 
to ask the smallest concession of you was 
distinctly out of place on his part, but he 
belongs to that order of the human family 
which considers number one first, and he declares, 
with the bluntness of his class, that he has 
wasted enough time already. I have taken his 
number and his employer's address, in case you 
wish to take steps, Mr. Hilder, to recover 
damages. Now, if you please, we will proceed 
to this convenient slope and see the clouds 
of smoke roll by. You won't mind me leaving 
you while I fetch the conveyance ? " 



276 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

Hilary and the master of Fairmead did not 
mind at all. In that moment, when Hilary 
opened her eyes, a new life had begun for 
them both. Nothing could ever be the same 
again now they knew that they loved one 
another, and that the future held no joy like 
being together. 

When Max told the girl how, on the night 
of his return from Wiesbaden, he had resolved 
to conquer his love for her and never to 
hope to link her youth and brightness 
with his maimed manhood, she stopped him 
with a laugh which ended in something like 
a sob. 

"Did you never think I should wonder why 
you had changed to me ? " she said softly. 
" Ah ! and how could you doubt me so ? You 
needed me the more. Surely, you must have 
known that I should love you better for that 
reason." 

" I did not know it, and I don't see why 
even now," Max said quietly. "I wonder if 
you realise all that you are pledging yourself 
to, child. I'm more than ten years older than 
you, Hilary, and you have known me scarcely 
a twelvemonth. I'm a cross-grained fellow at 
heart even when I manage to show the world 



IN THE HOUR OF PERIL. 277 

an unruffled front. I'm not patient, and I rebel 
a hundred times at the affliction which has 
been given me to bear. I'm a student, too, and 
times without number I shall seem to care 
more for my work than for your company. 
You deserve better, dear, than to be tied to a 
blind beggar like me." 

Hilary looked up at him ; she never taught 
herself that the clear brown eyes could not see 
the look on her face, and she believed Max knew 
when she looked at him. 

"To me you are just you" she said 
softly. "And if you had not loved me, I 
think I should have gone wanting you all 
my days." 

When Bradbrook came back, leading a 
little farmer's cart he had borrowed, he 
looked at the girl's radiant face and whistled 
softly. 

"You don't look as though you ailed mucn 
now, Miss Hilary," he said genially. "A boy is 
coming up to drive you, so I'll say good-bye. 
Some day soon I'll be down again. No, thank 
you, Miss Hilary ; I won't go on to the Cottage 
now. There isn't time, and I want to get back 
to town." 

He watched the two get into the cart and 



278 MRS. PEDERSON'S NIECE. 

drive away, then jumped on his bicycle and 
rode off. 

"It was a clear case for congratulations," 
he said, with an odd roughness in his voice. 
" But for the life of me I couldn't have worked 
myself up to the pitch of congratulating. It 
takes a deuce of a time for a man to cure 
himself of the dog-in-the-manger spirit. She 
wasn't for me, so why should I begrudge her 
to another chap ? I wish that she had chanced 
to fancy a perfect specimen, though. Good Lord ! 
Hilder needs some special bit of good fortune 
to compensate for his blindness. There must 
be something out of the common about him, too, 
for a girl like that to love him in spite of his 
drawback." 

Which shows that a man may hopelessly 
mistake the working of a girl's heart. 
* * * 

Thus Hilary's dark days came to an 
end. She had no longer to work "in the 
furrows," struggling for that blitheness of 
spirit which was once so easy to capture. She 
came to Fairmead as its master's wife when 
autumn dropped into winter, and, through 
the happy years that followed, still kept "that 
comely fashion" which had supported her 



IN THE HOUR OP PERIL. 279 

when she trod difficult paths ; which had won for 
her the love of a man who knew her first 
through this capacity for "making sunshine in 
a shady place." 




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Adventures of a Telegraph Boy Mark Stanton 

Dean Dunham Ned Newton 

Erie Train Boy, The New York Boy 

Five Hundred Dollar Check Tom Brace 

From Canal Boy to President Tom Tracy 

From Farm Boy to Senator Walter Griffith 

Backwoods Boy, The Young Acrobat 



C. B. ASHLEY. 

ies ever written on hum 
Fter the Custer Massacre. 

Gilbert, the Boy Trapper 



One of the best stories ever written on hunting, trapping and ad- 
venture in the West, after the Custer Massacre. 



A1VNI13 A8HMORE. 

A splendid story, recording the adventures of a boy with smugglers. 
Smuggler's Cave, The 

CAPX. RALPH KGXEIIILL. 

Capt. Bonehill is in the very front rank as an author of boys' 
stories. These are two of his best works. 

Neka, the Boy Conjurer Tour of the Zero Club 



F. BRUNS. 

An excellent story of adventure in the celebrated Sunk Lands of 
Missouri and Kansas. 

In the Sunk Lands 

FRAKK II. CONVERSE. 

This writer has established a splendid reputation as a boys' author, 
and although his books usually command $1.25 per volume, we offer 
the following at a more popular price. 

Gold of Flat Top Mountain In Southern Seas 

Happy-Go-Lucky Jack Mystery of a Diamond 

Heir to a Million That Treasure 

In Search of An Unknown Race Voyage to the Gold Coast 

DAVID McKAY, Publisher, Philadelphia. 

(ii) 



HARRY COLLIPiGWOOD. 

One of England's most successful writers of stories for boys. Hi* 
best story is 

Pirate Island 

GBORGB H. COOMER. 

Two books we highly recommend. One is a splendid story of ai'- 
venture at sea, when American ships were in every port in the world, 
and the other tells of adventures while the first railway in the Andes 
Mountains was being built. 

Boys in the Forecastle Old Man of the Mountain 



DAI/TON. 

Three stories by one of the very greatest writers for boys. The 
stories deal with boys' adventures in India, China and Abyssinia. 
These books are strongly recommended for boys' reading, as they con- 
tain a large amount of historical information. 

Tiger Prince "War Tiger 

"White Elephant 

HOWARD S. KULIS. 

These books are considered the best works this well-known writer 
ever produced. No better reading for bright young Americans. 

Arthur Helmuth Perils of the Jungle 

Check No. 2134 On the Trail of Geronimo 

From Tent to "White House "White Mustang 



GEORGB MANVIULE FBTTO. 

For the past fifty years Mr. Fenn has been writing books for boys 
and popular fiction. His books are justly popular throughout the 
English-speaking world. We publish the following select list of his 
boys' books, which we consider the best he ever wrote. 

Commodore Junk Golden Magnet 

Dingo Boys Grand Chaco 

"Weathercock 

BPtSIG!* CLARKE FITCH, V. S. X. 

A graduate of the U. S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, and tho- 
roughly familiar with all naval matters. Mr. Fitch has devoted him- 
self to literature, and has written a series of books for boys that every 

DAVID McKAY, Publisher, Philadelphia. 

(iii) 



young American should read. His stories are full of very interesting 
information about the navy, training ships, etc. 

Bound for Annapolis Cruise of the Training Ship 

Clif, the Naval Cadet From Port to Port 

Strange Cruise, A 

WILLIAM MURRAY <iRAYI>OX. 

An author of world-wide popularity. Mr. Graydon is essentially a 
friend of young people, and we offer herewith ten of his best works, 
wherein he relates a great diversity of interesting adventures in various 
parts of the world, combined with accurate historical data. 

Butcher of Cawnpore, The In Barracks and Wigwam 

Camp in the Snow, The In Fort and Prison 

Campaigning with Braddock Jungles and Traitors 

Cryptogram, The Rajah's Fortress, The 

From Lake to "Wilderness White King of Africa, The 

LIEUT. FREDERICK G ARRISOX , U. S. A. 

Every American boy takes a keen interest in the affairs of West 
Point. No more capable writer on this popular subject could be found 
than Lieut. Garrison, who vividly describes the life, adventures and 
unique incidents that have occurred in that great institution in these 
famous West Point stories. 

Off for West Point On Guard 

Cadet's Honor, A West Point Treasure, The 

West Point Rivals, The 

HEADOX HILL. 

The hunt for gold has always been a popular subject for considera- 
tion, and Mr. Hill has added a splendid story on the subject in this 
romance of the Klondyke. 

Spectre Gold 

HEXRY HARRLSOX LEWIS. 

Mr. Lewis is a graduate of the Naval Academy at Annapolis, and 
has written a great many books for boys. Among his best works are 
the following titles the subjects include a vast series of adventures 
in all parts of the world. The historical data is correct, and they 
should be read by all boys, for the excellent information they contain. 

Centreboard Jim Ensign Merrill 

King of the Island Sword and Pen 

Midshipman Merrill Valley of Mystery, The 

Yankee Boys in Japan 

McKAY, Publisher, Philadelphia. 

(iv) 



LIEUT. LIONEL LOUNSBERRY. 

A series of books embracing many adventures under our famous 
naval commanders, and with our army during the War of 1812 and 
the Civil War. Founded on sound history, these books are written 
for boys, with the idea of combining pleasure with profit ; to cutivate 
a fondness for study especially of what has been accomplished by 
our army and navy. 

Cadet Kit Carey Bandy, the Pilot 

Captain Carey Tom Truxton's School Days 

Kit Carey's Protege Tom Truxton's Ocean. Trip 

Lieut. Carey's Luck Treasure of the Golden Crater 

Out "With Commodore Decatur Won at West Point 



BROOKS McCORMICK. 

Four splendid books of adventure on sea and land, by this well- 
known writer for boys. 

Giant Islanders, The Nature's Young Nobleman 

How He Won Kival Battalions 



WALTER MORRIS. 

This charming story contains thirty-two chapters of just the sort of 
school life that charms the boy readers. 

Bob Porter at Lakeviow Academy 



STANLEY NORRIS. 

Mr. Norris is without a rival as a writer of "Circus Stories" for 
boys. These four books are full of thrilling adventures, but good, 
wholsome reading for young Americans. 

Phil, the Showman Young Showman's Pluck, The 

Young Showman's Rivals, The Young Showman's Triumph 



LIEUT. JAMES K. ORTON. 

When a boy has read one of Lieut. Orton's books, it requires no 
urging to induce him to read the others. Not a dull page in any of 
them. 

Beach Boy Joe Secret Chart, The 

Last Chance Mine Tom Havens with the White 

Squadron 

DAVID McKAY, Publisher, Philadelphia. 

(v) 



JAMBS OTIS. 

Mr. Otis is known by nearly every American boy, and needs no in- 
troduction here. The following copyrights are among his best : 

Chased Through Norway Unprovoked Mutiny 

Inland Waterways "Wheeling for Fortune 

Heuben Green's Adventures at Yale 



GILBERT PATTEN. 

Mr. Patten has had the distinction of having his books adopted by 
the U. S. Government for all naval libraries on board our war ships. 
While aiming to avoid the extravagant and sensational, the stories 
contain enough thrilling incidents to please the lad who loves action 
and adventure. In the Kockspur stories the description of their Base- 
ball and Football Games and other contests with rival clubs and teams 
make very exciting and absorbing reading ; and few boys with warm 
blood in their veins, having once begun the perusal of one of these 
books, will willingly lay it down till it is finished. 

Boy Boomers Jud and Joe 

Boy Cattle King Bockspur Nine, The 

Boy from the "West Bockspur Eleven, The 

Don Kirke's Mine Bockspur Bivals, The 



ST. GEORGE RATHBORT9E. 

Mr. Kathborne's stories for boys have the peculiar charm of 
dealing with localities and conditions wi.h which he is thoroughly 
familiar. The scenes of these excellent stories are along the Florida 
coast and on the western prairies. 

Canoe and Camp Fire Chums of the Prairie 

Paddling Under Palmettos Young Bange Biders 

Bival Canoe Boys Gulf Cruisers 

Sunset Banch Shifting "Winds 



ARTHUR 

An American story by an American author. It relates how a 
Yankee boy overcame many obstacles in school and out. Thoroughly 
interesting from start to finish. 

Gay Dashleigh's Academy Days 



DAVID McKAY, Publisher, Philadelphia. 

(vi) 



CAJPT. DAVID SOUTHWICK. 

An exceptionally good story of frontier life among the Indians in 
the far West, during the early settlement period. 

Jack "Wheeler 

The Famous Frank Merriwell Stories. 

BURT I*. STAKDISH. 

No modern series of tales for boys and youths has met with any- 
thing like the cordial reception and popularity accorded to the Frank 
Merriwell Stories. There must be a reason for this and there is. 
Frank Merriwell, as portrayed by the author, is a jolly whole-souled, 
honest, courageous American lad, who appeals to the hearts of the 
boys. He has no bad habits, and his manliness inculcates the idea 
that it is not necessary for a boy to indulge in petty vices to be a hero. 
Frank Merriwell' s example is a shining light for every ambitious lad 
to follow. Six volumes now ready : 

Frank MerriwelFs School Days Frank Merriwell's Bravery 
Frank Merriwell's Chums Frank Merriwell's Hunting Tour 

Frank Merriwell's Foes Frank Merriwell's Races 

Frank Merriwell's Trip "West Frank Merriwell's Sports Afield 
Frank Merriwell Down South Frank Merriwell at Yale 

VICTOR ST. CLAIR. 

These books are full of good, clean adventure, thrilling enough to 
please the full-blooded wide-awake boy, yet containing nothing to 
which there can be any objection from those who are careful as to the 
kind of books they put into the hands of the young. 

Cast Away in the Jungle From Switch to Lever 

Comrades Under Castro Little Snap, the Post Boy 

For Home and Honor Zig-Zag, the Boy Conjurer 

Zip, the Acrobat 

MATTHEW 'WHITE, JR. 

Good, healthy, strong books for the American lad. No more in- 
teresting books for the young appear on our lists. 
Adventures of a Young Athlete My Mysterious Fortune 

Eric Dane Tour of a Private Car 

Guy Hammersley Young Editor, The 

ARTHUR M. WINFIEI^D. 

One of the most popular authors of boys' books. Here are three 
of his best. 

Mark Dale's Stage Venture Young Bank Clerk, The 

Young Bridge Tender, The 

DAVID McKAY, Publisher, Philadelphia. 

(vii) 



GAYLE WINTBRXON. 

This very interesting story relates the trials and triumphs of a 
Young American Actor, including the solution of a very puzzling 
mystery. 

Young Actor, The 



A. YOUNG. 

This book is not a treatise on sports, as the title would indicate, hut 
relates a series of thrilling adventures among boy campers in the 
woods of Maine. 

Boats, Bats and Bicycles 



DAVID McKAY, Publisher, Philadelphia. 



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